Replacing missing teeth is crucial to preserving your oral health. To support a tooth replacement, your dentist may need to place a dental implant. Here, our Lethbridge periodontists explain the dental implant procedure.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that your dentist surgically places into your jaw bone to support a tooth replacement, such as a dental crown, dental bridge, or dentures.
Together, a dental implant and a tooth replacement look and act very much like a natural tooth.
A dental implant has two pieces: a titanium rod that is placed into the jaw bone and functions like the root of the tooth, and an abutment that screws into the rod, and ultimately supports the artificial tooth replacement.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Sometimes, it is possible to place dental implants on the same day as the teeth are extracted but usually, it takes three to six months of healing before you are ready for the implant to be placed. Your dentist will be able to provide a more specific timeline based on your needs and treatment plan.
Typically, the procedure will take two appointments to complete. During the first visit, the dentist will begin the implant procedure by surgically placing the titanium rod into your jaw bone beneath the gum tissue. Then they will stitch the gum tissue back into place.
As the tissue heals, the implant will bond with the bone and attach to the gum. The healing process could take up to several months.
Once your gum tissue has healed, your dentist will attach the abutment to the rod at the second appointment. Finally, they will attach a tooth replacement to the abutment.
This procedure will result in an artificial tooth that looks and functions much like a natural tooth.
In cases where there might not be enough jaw bone volume to support an implant, bone graft surgery may be required so implants can be placed later.
Many patients wonder if the dental implant procedure will be painful. While every patient has a different pain threshold, most are unlikely to experience major discomfort during and after the operation. You'll have the opportunity to discuss anesthesia options with your dentist and plan your procedure based on your preferences.
Typically, dental implant placement is completed using local anesthesia.
Why use a dental implant?
If you're missing one or more teeth, dental implants can be used to address a number of issues and protect your oral health.
By using a dental implant and a tooth replacement such as a dental bridge, dental crown or dentures, you can prevent surrounding teeth from shifting, restore any jaw pain or bite issues, and even improve chewing, speech and digestion. Having this procedure can also help avoid the appearance of a 'sunken face' that can often occur with missing teeth.
Wondering whether you'll be able to chew normally? Typically, chewing has been shown to improve after treatment. After a brief period of adapting to your new implants, chewing efficiency for most patients is similar to that of natural teeth.
How long will my dental implant last?
When cared for properly, a dental implant can last many years. It will be essential to practice proper at-home oral care, including brushing and flossing, and to schedule a regular dental exam and cleaning with your dentist. Other factors that can impact the longevity of dental implants include nutrition, genetics, or the development of any dental diseases.