What Are Dental Implants and How Do They Work?

What Are Dental Implants and How Do They Work?

WHAT IS A DENTAL IMPLANT?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is attached to the jaw. It is used when replacing a missing tooth with an artificial tooth or a bridge.

There is little difference between real teeth and dental implants in terms of appearance and function. Many times they look even better than the tooth it’s replacing. As far as function goes, implants are every bit as durable as your real teeth. And they are not susceptible to decay, which is a nice bonus.

The dental implant industry continues to grow as many dentists and oral surgeons believe it to be the best option for replacing missing teeth and there is no shortage of demand. The American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons reported that 69 percent of adults ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal, or tooth decay.

HOW DO THEY WORK?

The process of getting dental implants is lengthy and involves several stages.

A very important part of the process is the initial screening that your dentist or oral surgeon will do to determine if you are a good candidate for the surgery. You must have enough bone to hold the post and crown. If there is insufficient bone, a bone graft may be done. In the rare case of an implant failure, poor bone quality has often been found to be the cause according to reports released by the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Once you have been deemed appropriate for the surgery, the dentist will start by drilling down the area where he will place the implant. The implant is made of titanium and looks like a screw.

After it is placed, the implant has to bond and fuse together with the bone. This period of time is called osseointegration. According to The Academy of Osseointegration, most implants require two to four months for the bone to heal. Upper jaw fusing is typically longer than lower jaw integration. This process is very important so that your new tooth is on a solid foundation and will be attached as strongly as possible.

When healing is complete, your surgeon will place an abutment, which is a metal post that your new tooth will sit on. The abutment is visible above the jaw line. Your gums will then be allowed to heal for a couple weeks after this as well. You want the gum tissue to grow around the implant but not over it.

(Note: Some surgeons use implants that already have abutments or extensions, allowing them to skip the second healing period).

Once the gums are healed, an impression of your teeth will be made. An impression is basically a model of your teeth and they are used to help the lab make an artificial tooth that will fit and match your existing smile perfectly.

Once the artificial tooth is sent back from the lab (usually a few weeks later), it is placed on the abutment and fitted to your mouth. If all this goes well, you can then enjoy your new smile!

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