The main goal of most dentists is to ensure you keep your natural, healthy teeth for as long as possible. Nothing beats having a tooth — crown, root, and all — exactly where it’s supposed to be in your jaw. It provides support, bone volume, and function. But when a tooth absolutely has to be removed for whatever reason, the next best thing is a dental implant.
What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a screw, typically made of titanium, that gets inserted into the jaw where a tooth root used to be. The bone fuses to this screw, and once it’s healed in place a dental restoration is attached on top.
A dental implant is the only dental restoration that actually replaces the tooth root. Every other dental restoration for damaged or missing teeth only fixes the crown, the part visible above the gum line. This makes dental implants the closest thing to having your natural tooth in your mouth.
What are Dental Implants Used For?
Dental implants can be used to replace one or multiple teeth.
A single implant with a single crown on top is all that’s needed to replace a single tooth. A single implant can also support a dental bridge, allowing it to replace 2-3 teeth.
For patients who are missing most or all of their teeth from their upper or lower arch, implants can be used to support a denture. Using a technique called All-On-4, dentists can often replace an entire arch of teeth with a denture supported by just 4 implants.
Dental Implant Process
Firstly, the diseased or damaged tooth is removed if it hasn’t been already. Then, the dental implant is inserted into the jaw bone. The gum is sewn up over the implant site, and the bone is given several months to heal and fuse to the implant. The exact waiting period depends on a few factors, such as existing bone volume and the patient’s own healing capability.
After the implant has fused to the bone, an abutment is inserted into the implant. This abutment then allows the restoration to sit on top.
All up the process for getting a dental implant can take around 6 months from the initial consult to the final restoration being set onto the abutment.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
Most anyone who is missing a permanent tooth is a good candidate for a dental implant. The patient must be generally healthy and have sufficient bone volume. Certain conditions, such as diabetes and cardiovascular problems, will prevent someone from getting a dental implant. If there’s insufficient bone volume, a bone graft may need to be performed where possible.