Losing teeth as a child can be fun and exciting, but when you lose teeth as an adult, whether through an accident or injury or due to decay, there’s no tooth fairy and no natural replacement. Advancement in dentistry has given people many different options, from dentures to dental implants. Today, we’re taking a closer look at dental implants and the surgical procedure to place them.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a permanent replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. A dental implant surgeon places them and, with proper care, a crown can last 20 years or more. The implant itself will last a lifetime. The dental implant consists of a titanium screw to mimic the root of a natural tooth and a ceramic crown. The dental lab individually molds the crown to give the look and feel of a natural tooth. Unlike dentures or a dental bridge that sit on top of the gum, dental implants screw into the jaw itself.
The roots of your teeth stimulate the jaw bone to maintain its thickness and integrity, and thereby reduce bone erosion. When you lose a tooth, the jaw bone can start to thin over time, leading to serious health complications. Your other teeth will begin to shift, too, causing them to misalign and affect your bite. While dental bridges and dentures allow you to speak and chew more normally, they can’t maintain the integrity of your jawbone. This is because they sit on top of the gums and don’t touch the jawbone itself.
Many people prefer dental implants to dentures because implants are easier to clean just like natural teeth. Plus, implants have a more natural look and feel, and allow you to eat all the foods you normally would, including chewy, sticky, or tougher food.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Dental implants are a two-step procedure, with a four to six-week healing time in between the steps. First, the dental implant surgeon, like Dr. Trujillo, makes an incision in the gum to reveal the jawbone. He drills a small hole into the bone and inserts the titanium root. Dental implant surgeons use this metal because it’s light, durable, and biocompatible with the human body, meaning it’s safe to use for surgery. The top of the root sticks out a bit above the gum, and Dr. Trujillo sutures the incision.
Your oral surgeon crafts a crown designed to fit snugly in between your remaining teeth. The dental lab individually created the crown from either a composite resin or porcelain. They shape the crown to match the contours of the tooth it’s replacing and color match it to your other teeth as well. In fact, when done correctly, a dental implant is virtually indistinguishable from the other teeth. You’ll be able to eat and speak like usual once you recover and brush and floss around the implant like normal.
However, for some people, a bone graft is necessary before the dental surgeon can place the dental implant.
What is a Bone Graft For Dental Implants?
If it’s been a few years since you’ve lost your tooth, then the jaw bone may begin to thin due to the lack of stimulation from the tooth root. In these cases, the bone is too thin for the dental implant to fit correctly and won’t support the artificial root. Your oral surgeon will conduct an X-ray to determine the thickness of the bone. If you need a bone graft, they’ll usually take a small amount of your own bone and carefully shape it to fit the area. The oral surgeon makes an incision into the gum and inserts a bone fragment on top of your jaw.
The bone fragment will fuse with the jawbone, making it thicker. This process takes several weeks, and your oral surgeon will monitor your progress before placing the implant.
What Is the Recovery Like?
The healing time varies by individual, but you can expect pain and swelling after the first phase. Take care to protect the sutures when eating and drinking, and follow the aftercare instructions from your dentist. It takes about four to six weeks for the incision to heal enough to place the crown. The second phase of the implant process typically takes about a week to recover from.
If you notice redness and swelling that doesn’t go away, or if the area becomes puffy or inflamed, see your dental implant surgeon, Dr. Trujillo, immediately. If the jaw pain increases or you start running a fever, it can be a sign of infection, which should be treated promptly.
Am I a Good Candidate For Dental Implants?
The best candidates for any type of dental surgery are people in good overall health who don’t use tobacco and limit their alcohol intake. Both alcohol and tobacco, whether you smoke cigarettes, chew dip, or vape, can slow the healing process and increase your chances of complications after surgery.
If you’ve just recently lost a tooth, you’re a good candidate for the dental implant. The surrounding teeth won’t have had time to move, and it’s unlikely that you’ll need a bone graft.
Schedule Your Appointment Today!
At Arizona Periodontal Group, we’re experts in dental surgery, including placing dental implants. If you have lost a tooth because of decay or from an injury, we can help! Enjoy the look and feel of a natural tooth with a permanent dental implant. Give us a call today or schedule an appointment online for your personalized consultation today.
Dental Implant FAQs
Yes! Dental implants can be used to replace one tooth or several, including side-by-side ones.
Each procedure and person is different, so we give a quote based on your specific procedure. The cost depends on several things including the number of implants, extra procedures, and insurance coverage.
Each policy is different, but many insurances may cover part or all of the procedure. We advise you to contact the member services of your insurance plan.
For healthy individuals who already practice good oral hygiene, dental implants can be quite successful at a 98% success rate. However, if you fail to follow the aftercare instructions from your dental implant surgeon, you could have complications or develop an infection.
Unfortunately, there are no viable alternatives to a titanium implant. Fortunately, this metal is very biocompatible, and it's extremely rare for people to have a titanium allergy.
Unlike dentures, dental implants are permanently inserted into your jawbone. They become a permanent structure in your mouth and should last as long as your other teeth.