Implants: A Tooth Replacement System
December 20, 2016
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So you have lost a tooth and now there is a space, what can be done?  One way to replace a tooth is with a dental implant.  Nothing is as good as your natural teeth, but an implant can come close.  Implants have been around for many years.  They are man-made “anchors” that look like screws.  Implants are made of titanium and other materials that are compatible with the human body.  An implant looks like a natural tooth and does not involve treatment to your other teeth.

What’s involved with placing an implant?  The way implants are placed depends on the patient, type of implant, and the tooth being replaced.  The dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone.  After surgery there may be some swelling or tenderness, so pain medication is usually prescribed to ease the discomfort.

What is the healing time?  Healing time varies based on the time it takes for the bone to actually grow around the implant and holds it in place.  This process is called osseointegration.  This process is what makes the implant so strong.  Osseointegration takes time.  Some patients may need to wait until the implant is completely integrated.   This can take several months before the final replacement tooth attaches to the implant.  It can even take up to a year to complete.  Other patients can have the implant and replacement tooth placed all in one visit.  Your dentist can discuss which option is best for you.

What goes over the implant?  After the bone has healed around the implant, an implant post is attached to the implant.  Then a custom-made new tooth called a crown is placed on the implant post.  The crown is based on the size, shape, color, and fit that will blend with your natural teeth.

Who is a good candidate?  Someone who is in good health makes a good implant candidate.  Chronic illnesses such as diabetes or leukemia may slow the healing after surgery and prevent a successful outcome.  Also, you must have enough jawbone to support an implant.  Sometimes bone must be added by a special process known as bone grafting.  Smoking may be linked to a higher rate of implant failure.  After the implant is completed, good oral hygiene is very important to the success of the implant.  Good home care and regular dental visits will help keep your implant and natural teeth healthy.

Why bother replacing a missing tooth?  Missing teeth may affect the way you chew or speak.  When a tooth is missing, the teeth around it can move.  This places more stress on your teeth and jaw joints.  Teeth that have tipped or drifted are harder to clean.  This puts them at a higher risk for tooth decay and gum disease.   Bone loss can occur around the missing tooth.  Missing teeth can change the way you look.

You can never totally replace your natural teeth, but a dental implant is the next best thing.