Dental implants are the ideal solution to replace missing or extracted teeth. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The patient who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that the contour of gum tissue and underlying bone will be preserved.
Implants themselves are small titanium posts that serve as root replacements to support many different dental appliances, the most common of which are single tooth crowns. They are better than other tooth replacement options like removable dentures because they are fixed within the mouth, or like bridges because no surrounding natural teeth need to be cut down to replace the missing tooth. This also means that the new tooth does not rely on the support of other teeth.
The first part of the implant process is to install the implant fixture into the jawbone. To do this, an incision is made in the gum so that the implant can be inserted. Multiple implants can be placed at once if necessary and in many cases an implant may be placed the same day a tooth is extracted. After placement, a bone graft may be added, and the gums are sutured overtop of the implant so that healing may progress. The implant must be given 3-6 months to heal, during which time the jawbone will fuse to the implant surface in a process called osseointegration. You should be able to wear a temporary prosthesis allowing you to eat and maintain a full smile during this time.
After the implant has integrated, a quick, simple procedure is performed to uncover the implant from below the gum line so that your general dentist may fabricate and deliver a final crown (the visible portion of the tooth). After a short period of getting used to this crown it will feel just like one of your own teeth.
Implants require sufficient bone. In some cases, bone destruction from infection or loss of bone from long-term tooth absence may make implant placement impossible. Fortunately, bone grafting procedures such as ridge augmentation, ridge preservation and sinus floor augmentation predictably replace missing bone so that implants may be placed. These procedures involve the addition of a bone grafting material followed by a period of healing before implants are placed.