Dental implants can help restore your smile if you are missing teeth. Implants are made of three parts, and together, these parts make a strong construction that allows you to function as you would with a full set of natural teeth. One of these parts is an abutment, and if you have an implant, you already have this part of the dental implant in your mouth!
A dental implant is not the only method of replacing teeth, but in some cases, dental implants may offer a better solution than dentures or dental bridges. Speak with your dentist about which tooth replacement option is right for you.
When you receive a dental implant, a metal post is surgically inserted in your jaw where a tooth is missing. This post mimics a tooth root and will hold your implant firmly in the correct location - in the bone. On top of the post, a tooth-shaped crown is placed to allow you to chew and speak normally. The abutment is the connecting structure that holds the crown securely to the implanted post.
The metal post is typically made of titanium, and crowns can be made from several materials, including metal, zirconia, porcelain and ceramic. They may also be made from a combination of materials.
The implant procedure has several stages that may differ depending on the condition of the patient's jawbone. For example, if a patient's jawbone isn't strong enough to support the implant, an oral surgeon may recommend a bone graft procedure. In this procedure, an oral surgeon takes bone from another portion of the body or uses synthetic bone and attaches it to the jawbone. This provides sturdy support for your replacement teeth once the bone heals tightly around the dental implant.
Once the metal post has fused with the jaw — a process that may take several months — the abutment can be placed. Abutments can be made from several materials, most often titanium, gold, stainless steel, zirconia or polyether ether ketone, according to the Clinical and Laboratory Manual of Dental Implant Abutments. When selecting the material, your dentist will consider both the strength and the hygienic properties of each option.
Frequently, abutments are custom-made in a dental lab. The structure looks like a typical tooth that has been shortened, which is the ideal shape for receiving a crown.
The Mayo Clinic explains that placing the abutment is a minor procedure often conducted with the patient under local anesthesia. At the gumline, your dentist will attach the abutment to the implanted titanium post. Then, once your gums heal, the crown can be safely screwed onto the abutment.
When it comes to oral care for your abutment and the other parts of your implant, treat them like you would normal teeth. That means brushing at least twice each day complemented by daily flossing. If interdental brushes are more comfortable than traditional floss, use them to clean around the implant.
Don't forget to schedule regular dental checkups every six months. Your dentist will make sure your original teeth, crowns and accompanying parts are in healthy, working order.