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Dental Implants

What Are Dental Implants

A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. If you compare natural teeth to implant-supported replacement teeth, you’ll see they have the same basic parts. Both have a crown (the visible part used to chew food). Both have a root that holds the tooth securely under the gum and is anchored into the jaw. The difference is that the implant is made of titanium – the same time-tested material used by surgeons for artificial joints. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace the tooth, the surgeon first replaces the root with a small dental implant.

Time is allowed for bone to heal and grow around the dental implant. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth.  A support post (abutment) is then placed on the implant and a new replacement tooth (crown) is placed on top of the abutment. In many cases a temporary replacement tooth can be attached to the implant immediately after it is placed. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.

Surgical Advances in Dental Implants

Using the most recent advances in dental implant technology, Dr. McKenzie is able to place single stage implants. These implants do not require a second procedure to uncover them, but do require a minimum of six weeks of healing time before artificial teeth are placed. There are even situations where the implant can be placed at the same time as the tooth extraction – further minimizing your number of surgical procedures.

Dental implant placement is a team effort between an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and a restorative dentist.  Dr. McKenzie performs the actual implant surgery, initial tooth extractions, and bone grafting if necessary.  The restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.

Replacing Missing Teeth

Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and eating choices. As you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely, or be damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.

Who would want their appearance and health to deteriorate? That’s the natural consequence of missing teeth – the jaw literally melts away. Generally, people will lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss. Dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted because bone replacement becomes more complex as time passes. The great news? Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance. Your dentist and the implant surgeon will provide you with options so that you can make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.

Tooth Replacement Options

You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.

A good candidate is anyone missing one or more teeth, or who is unhappy with their dentures. Age is not a factor. However, smoking, diseases such as diabetes, and radiation therapy to the area, have been shown to lower the success rate of implant placement. X-rays of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants. Detailed x-rays may also be required to determine if other tests or procedures are needed to place implants properly.

Fixed Bridge

A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge.

Flipper

A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”.

Metal Partial

A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.

Denture

The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape.

Dental Implants

are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.

Why Dental Implants Over Traditional Restorations?

A dental bridge can sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth. In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing.

Procedure Overview:

The procedure to place a dental implant takes approx. 30 minutes for one implant. The number of appointments and time required, vary from patient to patient. The surgeon will bring great precision and attention to the details of your case.

Prior to surgery, you may receive antibiotics and for greater comfort, intravenous sedation. These options are discussed with you at your consultation appointment. A local anesthetic will be administered to numb the area where the dental implant will be placed.

When you are comfortable, the surgeon makes a small incision in the gum tissue to reveal the bone, creates space using special instruments, and gently inserts the titanium implant. The top of this implant is often visible through the gum. Sometimes it is better in the early stages of healing to have the implant covered by the gum tissue.

Healing After Implant Surgery:

Now the healing begins. The length of time varies from person to person, depending upon the quality and quantity of bone. In some cases, implants may be restored immediately after they are placed. The surgeon will advise you on follow-up care and timing. After the initial phase of healing, the surgeon places an abutment (support post) or a healing cap onto the dental implant during a brief follow-up visit. This allows gum tissue to mature and provides access to the implant.

Occasionally, impressions are made at the time the implant is placed. This enables the crown to be ready when the implants have healed. How long your mouth needs to heal is determined by a variety of factors. Follow-up care (one to four appointments) is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.

It may be beneficial to perform a soft tissue graft to obtain stronger, more easily cleaned and natural appearing gum tissue in the area around the implant. This process involves moving a small amount of gum tissue from one part of your mouth to the area around the implant. Most often, it is a brief and relatively comfortable procedure.

Whether it’s one tooth or all of your teeth that are being replaced, your dentist will complete the restoration by fitting the replacement tooth (crown) to the dental implant.

When Are Dental Implants Placed?

Implants are often placed several months after extraction. At times, an implant may be placed immediately after extraction of a tooth. This may involve a little more risk, but it simplifies the process—you won’t have to wait for another appointment to place the implant. When infection or other problems with the bone are present, immediate implant placement is not the best treatment.

If your tooth has been missing for some time, the adjacent support bone is likely to grow thinner and shrink. This occurs because the root of the natural tooth has to be present to stimulate the bone. As much as one third of your jaw’s thickness can be lost in the year following tooth extraction. If you are missing enough bone, you may benefit from having additional bone grafted into the area. This ensures the implant will be adequately supported when it is placed in the jaw.

How Many Implants Do I Need?

Most frequently, one implant per missing tooth is placed. Because many of the larger teeth in the back of your jaws have two or three roots, the most common approach is to replace missing back teeth with larger implants.

Considering the Cost of Dental Implants:

When comparing the cost of dental implants to other tooth replacement methods such as dentures and bridges, it is important to take into consideration the longevity offered by dental implants that is not always afforded by other, more traditional methods.

While dentures and bridges are initially less expensive, their affordability can be short-lived. Because these older methods require repair and replacement every 5-10 years, they are often more expensive over time. By contrast, dental implants, when properly placed and cared for, can last a lifetime.

Jaw Bone Health:

Over time, when a tooth is missing, the jaw bone deteriorates. So while a denture or bridge may seem to function similarly to a tooth, underneath the surface damage is being done to the jaw bone and ultimately to the structure of the face. This can result in the distortion of the shape of a person’s face, leading to additional cosmetic costs down the road.

On the other hand, dental implants are made of titanium, which actually integrates with the jaw bone, strengthening it and stimulating bone growth. This preserves the natural strength and quality of the mouth, lessening problems in the future.

Quality of Life:

Dental implants can be seen as a long-term investment not only in terms of money, but also in terms of quality of life. A dental implant is the closest thing to a natural tooth. In addition to allowing the patient to eat the same healthy foods he or she has always enjoyed, it also eliminates the day-to-day hassles and possible embarrassment that are frequently caused by dentures.

Comparing Quotes

There are several steps (and often multiple professionals) involved in the placement of a dental implant. When comparing quotes, it’s important to factor in the cost of each of these steps:

  • Exams/office visits
  • Tooth/root extraction
  • Bone Grafting
  • Placement of the titanium root (the “dental implant”)
  • Placement of the crown
  • X-rays, pre/post operative care

First, check with your dental insurance carrier to see what portion, if any, of dental implants they cover.

Dental Implants are an investment in your health as well as your appearance. A full set of teeth makes eating a pleasure again, making it easier to eat a balanced, healthy diet. A full set of teeth also preserves the contours of the face, keeping you from looking old before your time.

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