What are dental implants?
Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth by acting as artificial tooth roots that fuse to your jawbone. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth.
Unlike removable dentures, dental implants look and feel like your own teeth.
Can anyone get dental implants?
In most cases, patients healthy enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery can be considered for a dental implant. Patients need to have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. Patients must also be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders such as diabetes or heart disease, or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
Treatment planning before implants
Bone height and width are very important when planning for dental implants. If a tooth has not yet been extracted, socket preservation can be performed to preserve the bone level as the extraction site heals. If an extraction has been performed without using socket preservation in the past, bone grafting may be required to build bone thickness before an implant can be placed. Bone graft material may be taken from your jaw, hip, or other source. In some cases, a synthetic graft may be used.
What to expect during dental implant surgery
Step 1: A small incision is made in the gum tissue to expose the jawbone underneath
Step 2: A small pilot divot is created to initiate the drilling process.
Step 3: A small drill bit is used to create the correct depth needed to place implant (this depth is determined using x-ray imagining prior to surgery)
Step 4: A larger tapered drill bit is used to widen and shape the implant site.
Step 5: Using a specially designed tool (similar to a torque wrench), the implant is screwed into place.
Step 6: A healing cap will be placed over the implant to allow the gums to heal correctly
Minor bleeding and swelling is normal after implant surgery. Drink only clear liquids for the rest of the day following the procedure. Avoid putting pressure on the implant site and eat only soft foods for the first few days.
It usually takes a few months for the bone to properly heal and fuse to the implants. During this time, several appointments will be needed to check healing progress.
After the implant has healed
Once the bone and gums are healed, a final abutment is placed. The final abutment sticks out above the gum line and acts as the attachment point for any prosthesis.
To make a custom fit prosthesis, impressions will be taken of your teeth and abutments. This will also include a bite registration to see how your teeth come together. From these impressions, a mold is made of your jaw. Your prosthesis is then completed based on the mold.
Types of Prosthesis
The type of prosthesis you will need is determined by the number of teeth you are missing.
A single prosthesis (such as a crown) is used to replace a missing tooth. Only one implant is needed.
A partial prosthesis is used to replace two or more teeth. Sometimes 2 – 3 implants are needed.
A complete denture prosthesis is used to replace all of the teeth on the upper or lower jaw, or both. The number of implants needed depends on whether the denture is fixed (permanent) or removable.
What are mini dental implants?
Mini dental implants are used to stabilize full dentures. They consist of a miniature titanium alloy implant that acts like a tooth root and a fixture this is incorporated into the base of a denture. The head of the implant is shaped like a ball while the retaining fixture on the denture acts like a socket with a rubber O-ring. The O-ring snaps over the ball when the denture is placed and holds the denture in place. A new denture does not have to be made. Your existing denture can be adapted to accommodate mini implants.
How are mini implants placed?
The placement of mini implants can often be done during a 2 hour appointment using local anesthetic. Using a minimally invasive technique, mini implants are placed into the jawbone. Because this procedure is less invasive than traditional implants, the healing process is typically shorter. With most patients, the denture can be stabilized the same day as implant placement.
The denture should be left in place for 48 hours following implant placement. Minor bleeding may occur. Mild discomfort is normal and usually minimal. Prescription medications may be given to help with pain. Avoid hard or sticky foods for the first couple days and when you are able to remove the denture, rinse your mouth with antiseptic mouthwash.
Care and Maintenance
The ball of the implants must be brushed and cleaned like they are natural teeth. Food and bacterial debris must be removed after meals. If this debris (or plaque) is not removed, inflammation can force the gum tissue up into the O-ring fixtures causing the denture to not seat properly. The O-ring fixture on the denture base should also be cleaned out.
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