Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. There provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match natural teeth.
The advantages of dental implants are:
- Improved appearance (look and feel like own teeth)
- Improved speech (with poor-fitting dentures, the teeth can slip within the mouth causing to mumble or slur words)
- Improved comfort
- Improved self-esteem
- Improved oral health (doesn't require reducing other teeth so more of teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health)
- Easier eating
- Durability (implants last many years, with good care, a lifetime)
- Convenience (implants eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing dentures)
Patient considered for a dental implant should have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant and must be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Patients who are heavy smokers, suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders (diabetes or heart disease) or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area must be evaluated on an individual basis.
The team of professionals experienced in oral surgery and restorative dentistry will make a plan for specific patient’s needs. First, for making a new tooth, a dentist will make impressions of patient’s teeth and create a model of his/her bite which captures all teeth, their type, and arrangement, including new tooth or teeth.
Also, a dentist will match the color of patient’s new teeth to his/her natural teeth. Then, the tooth root implant (small post made of titanium) will be placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth and the jawbone will heal and grow around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw.
When this process is finished (usually from 6 to 12 weeks), a small connector post (abutment) will be attached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. Finally, a replacement tooth, called a crown, will be attached to the abutment.
Some patients may have attachments placed on the implant that retains and support a removable denture instead of one or more individual crowns.
During the procedure, the patient will feel very little discomfort but also a local anesthesia can be used during the procedure. After the dental implant, mild soreness can be treated with counter pain medications.
Dental implants do not require any special care, simply good oral hygiene practice (brushing teeth at least twice a day, floss at least once a day and see a dentist for regular professional check-ups and cleanings).
In general, dental implants are not covered by dental insurance at this time but it can be covered under patient’s medical plan, depending on the insurance plan.