What are Dental Implants?
Implants are one of the alternatives in modern dentistry available when seeking tooth replacement remedies. An implant is a cylinder made of titanium, simulating the tooth root. The cylinder is surgically inserted into the jawbone past the gum line where a missing tooth is to be replaced. The screw-like cylinder then creates a foundation for the crown to sit. The crown is designed to look like the visible part of a natural tooth. Today, implants are the substrate upon which dentures or bridges sit in order to restore the mouth to a more natural look and feel.
Am I a Candidate for Implants?
If you are looking to replace a tooth using an implant, chances are that you are already a good candidate for the procedure. A good candidate for dental implants should pass the following criteria:
- Healthy gums that can accommodate an implant
- Strong jaw bones that can create an anchoring point for the implant
- Are able to commit to keeping up with good oral hygiene practices such as flossing and brushing teeth
- Have one or more missing teeth
Conditions That May Decrease the Success Of a Dental Implant
- Severe chronic conditions such as diabetes, certain immune deficiencies and connective tissue disease, may rule out a candidate.
- Chronic smoking- Smoking interferes with the normal healing process of wounds. It reduces the success rates of an implant.
- Past and present use of Bisphosphonate, whether it be Fosamax or Boniva
- Substance abusers- drugs and alcohol impair the judgment of a user and may hinder the normal recovery of an implant. They are likely not to follow the dentist’s instructions and keep oral hygiene standards below par.
- High Cholesterol and low Vitamin D can greatly affect the success of the implant integration in the bone; for large restoration cases, our practice usually requests a test to evaluate your levels.
Dr. Brigham will examine patients and determine if they are good candidates for implants.
How Can Bone be Preserved to Support Dental Implants?
When a tooth is lost without an immediate replacement, the bone that supported the tooth tends to start “melting away”. One can lose up to 70% of bone from an extraction. It may also affect adjacent teeth which start to move, causing a misalignment. This changes the smile and general shape of the face considerably. To correct bone loss, Dr. Brigham will place an artificial bone graft into the jawbone. This will give the jawbone necessary volume to hold the implant. After the bone graft heals (fuses with the jaw bone), the surgeon will proceed to screw the cylinder into the bone. In turn, the implants fuse to the bone eventually stabilizing it to prevent any further bone loss.
How Are Implants Placed?
How our implants are placed depends on whether we remove the tooth and place a bone graft or if there is sufficient bone in place to allow for implant placement. Each patient is different and this is why we recommend an appointment to determine your best course of action.
Dental Implants: First Phase
Since it’s a surgical procedure, Dr. Brigham will use local anesthesia and sedation where desired. Placing the implants requires a small incision in your gums, on the replacement site. Dr. Brigham will then prepare the osteotomy and insert the implant into the jawbone. Dr. Brigham or an assistant will then hand you instructions on how to take care of your teeth not to harm the implant. You may feel some discomfort and pain after the procedure, but it should subside with time. The implant takes about three to five months to fuse with the bone completely. Until it’s time to proceed to the next phase, ensure that the implant remains untouched.
Dental Implants: Second Phase
After the implant fuses with the bone, Dr. Brigham will proceed to the second phase. Dr. Brigham will expose the implant and place a metal healing collar for optimal gingiva position for perfect emergence profile of your prosthesis. The head of the implant should be unmasked and retrieved. A metal healing cap then sits in place of the screw’s head and above the gums where the tooth should be. Depending on how stable your implants are, the dentist may fit a crown immediately. The crown epitomizes the visible part of the natural tooth.
Are There Options for Implant Tooth Replacement?
Other than implants, we have other options that utilize the implant technique to replace teeth. The normal implant fits a cylinder in place of a tooth root; each implant for every missing tooth. They are known to be the most effective of all options. There is an all-on-four implant supported denture that supports a full-arch of a denture with just four implants on the lower jaw. The upper jaw may demand more support requiring about six implants to support the entire arch of a denture. The other option is the implant-supported fixed bridge that does not necessarily take every single replacement site into account. It does not replace every tooth with a single implant but instead anchors a bridge on two implants and covers for missing teeth placed in between.
What Type of Maintenance Do Dental Implants Require?
Implants can last one a lifetime if taken care of like natural teeth. Here are three maintenance tips to keep your implants in proper shape.
Regular Dental Visits
Dr. Brigham will schedule check-ups to examine how your implants are healing and adapting. He or she should also check for any developing gum diseases that could interfere with the success rate of the implants. Immediately after the last phase of the implant, you are expected to see Dr. Brigham every three months and after completely healing, at least twice a year.
Maintain Oral Hygiene
You should treat your implant just like any other tooth in your mouth. This means brushing and flossing your teeth daily, including the implants. Oral health helps to keep gum disease at bay, extending the longevity of the implants.
Use Low-Abrasive Toothpaste
Your crown may look natural, but it’s artificial. Use of the low-abrasive toothpaste ensures that the crowns do not suffer from scratches and other unnecessary damage.
A consultation is most definitely needed between the patient and Dr. Brigham to determine the potential risks involved, as well as the best course of action. The first step towards a beautiful, healthy smile is to schedule an appointment. Please contact our office by phone or complete the appointment request form. Our scheduling coordinator will contact you to confirm your appointment.