A dental implant is a prosthesis that is used to replace missing teeth. It is composed of 3 parts — the titanium implant, abutment, and the artificial tooth attachment.
First, a titanium implant fixture will be surgically embedded into your jawbone. This will act as your missing tooth’s root. Your bone will grow around the implant to permanently fix the tooth replacement and to prevent slippage and bone damage. Then, once the implant has integrated with a bone, an abutment will be placed to connect the implant and the artificial tooth attachment.
Lastly, the artificial tooth will be placed on top of the abutment. This can be a single crown (cap), fixed bridge, partial denture, or a full denture depending on the number of teeth needing replacement.
If you have a tooth with extensive decay or infection, or if you are suffering from tooth loss, dental implants offer an effective and permanent teeth replacement. They are typically done after extraction or failed root canal therapy wherein getting dental implants will be safer than trying to save the tooth with additional dental procedures.
Compared to dental bridges or dentures, which are other teeth replacement treatments, dental implants maintain the natural contours of the face and prevent the facial bones and other remaining teeth from shifting. Aside from that, dental implants are also easily maintained. They can be brushed, flossed, and cleaned with the same oral health routine you practice with your natural teeth. No additional care needed. With this, you can keep a beautiful and healthy smile for long-term.
$1,600 to $13,000
There are two types of dental implants:
1. Endosteal implants that are placed into the jawbone
2. Subperiosteal implants that are placed under the gum, either on or above the jawbone. This is an excellent option for patients who lack healthy bone or those who do not want to undergo bone augmentation to build healthy bone support.
Healthy bone with sufficient height is necessary for a successful implant placement. If this will not be possible, bone graft surgery is required. For this, the bone may be sourced from another location in the body or using synthetic bone material. This process adds a few months to your implant surgery as the bone will need time to heal.
Here is how a routine dental implant process goes:
1. Implant planning
A routine dental implant surgery starts with taking dental X-rays and scans. This is helpful to accurately plan the implant placement. They will check the most ideal implant angulation and placement in relation to the other structures in the mouth.
2. Administration of anesthesia
To keep you comfortable and to keep the entire process relatively painless, local anesthetics will be injected into the jawbone. Medications may also be recommended prior to the procedure to make you sleepy which can help you relax. This is also important so your dentist can provide a safe environment during your treatment.
3. Gum incision
When the anesthesia has taken effect, the surgery will begin by incising the gum area to reveal the jawbone.
4. Jawbone preparation
Then, with visible access, your dentist will gradually and gently drill a hole into the jawbone. The size of the hole depends on the size of the implant to be used.
5. Implant placement
The implant will either be titanium or zirconia and this will be gently tapped into position. For patients that need several dental implants, there will be several rounds of steps 3 to 5 until all the implants needed to complete your smile are in place.
Once the implant is in place and the gums around it are stitched for healing, you will have to wait 4 to 6 months to allow the implant to fuse with the bone. This is a process called Osseointegration and is vital for the success of your dental implant.
7. Placement of abutment
When osseointegration is complete, you will be asked to return to your dentist for the placement of the abutment. This will connect the implant to your artificial tooth and is placed just above the gum line.
While you can have the abutment simultaneously placed with the implants, the tiny metal button sticking out does not look as pleasing. So, it is often advised to have it done when bone-implant fusion is complete.
8. Custom Prosthesis
Then, with the abutment is in position, your dentist will take your mouth impressions to create a tooth mold. This is where your final artificial tooth replacement will be made. The prosthesis can either be a crown or an implant-supported bridge or denture. This will match the color and shape of your existing teeth so they look as natural as possible.
The entire process can take up to 9 months. While this sounds long and tedious, the result is a smile that you will love for a very long time.
Initial Consultation and Evaluation
Before you get dental implants, you will have to be screened first to identify if you are an ideal candidate for the procedure. During your initial consultation, X-rays and scans will be taken to study the health and structures of your mouth— including your teeth, gums, head, neck, jaws, and bite.
Your medical history will also be taken into consideration. If you have an existing medical condition such as diabetes, it is important that blood tests are performed and a pass from your physician is obtained. Also, inform your surgeon if you are taking any medications as some may affect the treatment.
There are some patients who do not make the cut because of certain issues related to their oral and general health. Meanwhile some patients will require pre-implant procedures to get them ready for implant placement.
Some of these pre-procedures include bone grafting and periodontal therapy. Bone grafting is for patients who do not have sufficient bone height and density to support a dental implant. Meanwhile, if you have periodontal disease, you will need to complete gum and periodontal treatment first to resolve the disease before you can get implants.
These are all part of your dentist’s implant treatment plan. And they will discuss this, along with the details of the procedure, during the pre-treatment phase. Once your dentist has established that you are in good health, you will be scheduled for the implant surgery appointment.
Implant Surgery Preparation
Before your appointment, your dentist will arrange how the procedure will go. If you are recommended for an IV sedation during your dental implant treatment, it is advised that you do not eat anything after midnight to make sure your stomach is empty. For local anesthesia, a light meal before the procedure is recommended.
Antibiotics may also be prescribed to prevent early implant failures. You are to maintain good oral health by practicing a good hygiene routine. A special anti-bacterial mouthwash may also be recommended to keep your mouth in good condition.
Mouth Care and Diet
After placement of your implant and while you wait for bone-implant fusion, good oral health should be maintained to encourage better and faster healing. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush to clean your teeth and gums. An antiseptic rinse will also be prescribed to help keep the mouth clean. Avoid doing anything that will disturb the implant site. Do not brush along the area and avoid aggressive swilling as this will impede healing.
Stick to a soft-food diet while your gums are in the process of healing. You should be fine with eating normally after 1 to 2 weeks.
The recovery process is important because it directly influences the success of your dental implant surgery. If you fail to take care of your oral health, an infection is possible which will ultimately lead to failure of the implant treatment.
Life With Dental Implants
A learning curve is expected as you transition to your new smile with dental implants. You will be instructed not to eat hard or crunchy foods for a few weeks after your final prosthesis is attached. If you feel like some areas feel bulky or unnatural looking, you may schedule a visit with your dentist for necessary adjustments.
It will take some time to get used to your dental implants. But with daily use and proper care, you will find the results to be worthwhile and rewarding.
We understand you may want to change your plans due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) and its health implications.
Just like any other dental and surgical procedures, there are risks involved with dental implants. But these are manageable with the care of the right dentist.
Some of these risks include:
When will I be able to see dental implant results?
It usually takes around 4 – 6 months for the implant to successfully integrate with the bone. Only then can the abutment and visible artificial teeth attachment can be placed. That’s when you’ll see the final results.
How long do dental implants last?
Implants are likely to last around 25 years, possibly longer with proper care. Follow your dentist’s instructions on the dos and don’ts of implant care. Also, make sure to schedule your bi-annual dental visits for implant upkeep. Screws that come loose can be tightened and chips on the crown can be polished.
What makes dental implants superior to other tooth replacement options?
Dental implants look and function just like natural teeth. It prevents bone loss in the jaw and sit comfortably in the gums for a natural appearance. They are also permanently fixed so they do not budge when you eat, drink, talk, smile, and laugh. And they are very low maintenance. With a success rate of 95%, implants remain superior over other options.
What do dental implants feel like?
They should feel very natural so you can comfortably and confidently talk, eat, and smile just as you would with your natural teeth.
Do dental implants look like real teeth?
Yes, they do! They support the bone, gums, and other facial structures well to promote a very youthful and natural appearance. If you are experiencing bone and gum recession, your dentist will need to make expert adjustments to ensure the implants blend seamlessly with your smile.
How painful is getting a dental implant?
Most dental implant patients report that their dental implant experience was quite comfortable. An anesthetic will be placed prior to the surgery, so you should feel minimal discomfort if any. And once the anesthetics wear off, simply follow your dentist’s post-operative instructions. Take the prescribed antibiotics and pain medications to alleviate any pain.