What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are individual false teeth that replace missing or damaged teeth. Implants also stop the loss of jawbone mass that can occur when a tooth is missing. Implants are a great alternative to dentures or crowns. Unlike dentures, permanent implanted teeth allow you to eat all kinds of foods. You don’t need to worry about them when playing sports as well. Unlike dentures, implants do not come out. They are anchored in your jawbone with steel rods that make them as strong, if not even stronger, than your regular teeth.
Dental implants can also be used by people with healthy teeth to correct alignment issues without resorting to orthodontics.
Am I a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Just about anyone who is missing a tooth, or who has badly damaged teeth needing extraction, is a great candidate for dental implants. The jawbone and teeth need to have finished growing and moving. The patient needs to be an adult to get implants. There isn’t an upper age limit. The one exception, although it is only temporary, is if the patient doesn’t have sufficient jawbone mass to support an implant. This can be the case if the patient has been missing a number of teeth for some time, and the underlying jawbone has deteriorated. In these cases, Dr. Barney would have to build up the jawbone with bone grafts prior to placing an implant.
People who smoke may not be eligible to get implants. Once the anchor and post are placed in the jawbone, they need more bone to form around them. The sucking action involved with smoking can loosen the abutment screw holding the implant in place. People with chronic disorders such as heart disease or diabetes, or people undergoing radiation therapy, are not good candidates for implants. When you come in for your initial consultation, Dr. Barney will discuss if implants are right for you.
What Problems Do Dental Implants Fix?
Missing a few teeth can seem like a minor issue. Of course, there are the cosmetic issues involved with missing a tooth, and speaking may create whistling sounds. Plus, you may avoid eating certain hard foods such as nuts, so gaps in your nutrition can occur.
The biggest problem is jawbone loss. Natural teeth transfer the energy from biting down into the jawbone under each tooth. This energy triggers the jawbone to continually shed old cells and build new ones to replace them. In turn, this helps to keep the jawbone healthy. In the area where a tooth is missing, the jawbone doesn’t receive this energy and begins to deteriorate. If the person is missing a few teeth, the jawbone loss can make the face appear as if the jaw is collapsing inward.
Dental implants, because they are anchored into the jawbone just like a natural tooth, transfer the same energy down into the jawbone, keeping it healthy. Implants also give the patient back a full smile and allow the person to eat any foods they want without worry. Other tooth replacement options such as bridges can dictate avoiding certain hard or chewy foods. Bottom line — there is no better option for replacing a missing tooth than a dental implant with Dr. Barney.
Dental Implant Procedure
- First, the implant anchor is put into your jawbone by an oral surgeon. The anchor functions as the tooth root and is made from metals such as titanium.
- Next, the post is attached to the anchor. The artificial tooth will eventually be attached to the post.
- Once the anchor and post are installed, the jawbone needs to grow around the anchor, locking it into place permanently. This process takes three to six months.
- Once the jawbone and implant anchor are well attached, the artificial tooth is cemented onto the post.
A newer procedure allows implants to be installed in one step, although this isn’t available for all patients.
How Long Is the Overall Procedure for Placing a Dental Implant?
After the titanium implant is placed into the hole formerly occupied by the natural tooth root, time is needed for the jawbone to grow around the implant and make it a part of the jawbone. This process, called osseointegration, varies by the patient, taking from three to six months.
Once Dr. Barney sees that the implant is fully integrated into the jaw, he then attaches the abutment/post to the implant. This is a second minor surgery, but time is needed to allow the gums to heal for one to two weeks. During this phase, the post will stick up above the gumline. When the gums have healed, the artificial tooth is attached to the post and you’re good to go.
Is Getting a Dental Implant Painful?
The thought of drilling into the jawbone to place the titanium implant sounds painful, but in reality, it is easier than extracting a tooth. Dr. Barney uses local anesthetic to numb the area, and since the jawbone doesn’t have many pain-sensing nerves, you shouldn’t feel anything.
After the implant is placed, you will have some soreness in your cheeks, chin, and possibly under your eyes. There will probably be some bruising of the skin and gums and pain at the implant site. In most cases, this is manageable with ibuprofen. As your gums heal, you will be advised to eat soft foods, for about 7 to 14 days.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
With proper oral care, implants can last a lifetime. If you brush and floss daily, and get regular dental check-ups, dental implants will stay strong because the bone underneath the gums will be strong.
Can Dentures or Crowns Be Replaced with Implants?
Dr. Barney can successfully replace any previous dental treatments such as crowns, dentures, and heavily filled teeth with implanted teeth. As long as the supporting jawbone is strong, the implant will adhere correctly.
Is It Easier to Care for Dental Implants Than Dentures?
When you wear dentures, you need to remove them every night, clean them, and soak them in a solution. Dental implants do not need to be taken out — you care for them exactly as you do with your normal teeth: brushing, flossing, and having regular checkups and cleanings.