What are Dental Implants?
Dr. Walter Dukes
Modern dental implants have been used successfully for over 30 years. They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth – and even better, they allow these new teeth to feel, look and function naturally.
Dental implants can be a smart choice for adults of all ages, whether you were born without a tooth or have had to have teeth removed due to injury, infection or decay. They can also be an option for adolescents, once facial growth and development has been completed. Generally, this occurs around age 16 for girls and age 18 for boys.
Here are four important advantages of dental implants, compared to alternatives such as dentures and bridges:
- You’ll look and feel great. Dental implants feel, look, fit and function like healthy, natural teeth. They’re so comfortable you don’t have to think about them. You brush and floss them just like you do your natural teeth – no need to remove them for cleaning. They also help you retain your natural face shape and smile.
- They’re built to last. Dental implants that are properly cared for can last many decades. Many other options, including certain types of dental bridges and dentures, may need to be replaced as often as every 5 to 10 years, requiring a more significant investment of time and money.
- You can live life with confidence. Your dental implants will be secure, so they won’t slip or click when you talk, eat or laugh. You’ll also find that your speech is more natural. With dental implants, you’ll have the peace of mind to eat what you love, say what you want to say, be as active as you want and smile broadly.
- They protect facial bone and healthy teeth. Leaving empty spaces in your mouth after losing one or more teeth can lead to health issues such as jawbone deterioration. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that actually helps stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss. Getting dental implants as soon as possible after losing a tooth helps prevent bone loss at the site. Also, dental implants don’t require grinding down adjacent teeth to anchor bridges or attach partial dentures.
Dental implant placement usually involves the following steps:
- Initial consultation: Dr. Dukes will thoroughly examine your mouth, including taking X-rays or 3D images, discuss the various implant options and develop a plan for your implant surgery.
- Dental implant placement: At your next scheduled appointment, Dr. Dukes will place the dental implant in your jawbone where your tooth is missing. Although each patient’s experience is unique, most people find they experience less pain and discomfort than they expect, and typically return to work the next day. Local anesthesia or IV sedation can be used to keep you comfortable, depending on the procedure. Post-implant surgery discomfort is similar to that of any other dental surgery. It may include swelling, bruising, minor bleeding and/or pain, but most patients usually manage any pain with over-the-counter medications.
- Osseointegration: As you heal, your implant and jawbone will grow together in a process called osseointegration (os-e-o-in-tuh-GRAY-shun), forming a strong, long-lasting foundation for your replacement teeth. During this healing process, which can take up to a few months, you go on with your normal life. You will be on a soft food diet for the first few weeks to make sure your implants heal properly. In some cases, we may also be able to place temporary teeth during this period, if you choose.
- Abutment placement: Once your implant bonds with your jawbone, a small connector – called an abutment – is placed on the dental implant just above the gumline. In some cases, the abutment can be placed at the same time as the implant.
- Custom-make and attach new teeth: After your gums heal, Dr. Dukes will make impressions of your mouth and remaining teeth to custom-make your artificial teeth. These teeth – which can be an individual crown, implant-supported bridge or dentures containing multiple replacement teeth – will be attached to the abutment. Although they don’t decay, your new teeth will need the same routine care, checkups and cleanings as your natural teeth.
- Periodic check ups: Depending on the number and type of implants and replacement teeth you receive, the entire process can take three to nine months. After your dental implant placement is finished, you’ll visit us periodically for follow-up checkups.