Dental implants are artificial teeth that are implanted into the mouth and jaw, often used when adults lose adult teeth as they age. Most dental implants are made to look, feel, and act like natural teeth and are the closest thing you can get to natural, healthy teeth. Not only does this help preserve the aesthetic view of the mouth, but dental implants also preserve the overall structure of the mouth by keeping the other teeth from moving out of their normal positions in unnatural or painful ways.
A dental implant is made of a metal post topped by an artificial tooth. This implant is installed into the gumline to keep the structure of the remaining teeth and to keep natural chewing and biting intact.
Dental implant surgery replaces the root area of the missing tooth with metal, screw-like posts in which the artificial tooth can be implemented. The artificial teeth look and act just like real ones, so this type of surgery can be a great alternative to wearing dentures or having ill-fitting bridgework done.
Dental implant surgery may be performed in several steps depending upon the kind of implant you’re getting and the health of your jawbone. The process requires the jawbone to heal tightly around the dental implant area, (called osseointegration) effectively assimilating it into the gumline as if it were a natural tooth. The implants are surgically placed within the jawbone and serve as the “root” of the artificial tooth being implemented. Titanium is often used for this procedure because it fuses the implant with the jawbone, remains firmly in place, and won’t decay like some kinds of bridgework.
There are many reasons to have dental implants: you have one or more missing teeth; your jawbone is strong enough to have the procedure; you’re unable (or unwilling) to wear dentures; or you have a speech impediment that could be improved by adding one or more dental implants to your gumline.
Like with any medical procedure, there are risks involved with dental implant surgery. While issues or complications are rare, there is still a risk of infection at the implant site, which can lead to other issues later on. Other possible complications from dental implant surgery include damage to the surrounding teeth or nerve damage to adjacent teeth, lips or gums. If you’re discussing the possibility of dental implants with your dentist or oral surgeon, they will discuss these risks and address your concerns ahead of the procedure.
Because several surgical procedures are required for dental implants, your dentist or oral surgeon will do a full and thorough evaluation, including X-rays and teeth models to ensure the dental implants will closely match your natural teeth.
Next, the condition of your jawbone will be judged in relation to how many teeth you plan on having replaced with implants. This planning process could involve several types of dental specialists (including a maxillofacial surgeon and a periodontist), so don’t expect it to be a quick process.
Your dentist will also want to know about any medical conditions you may have and any medications you are taking, including those bought over the counter. Do you have any heart conditions or orthopedic implants? If so, your dental specialist may prescribe certain antibiotics before the surgery to help prevent infection.
Your doctor will know and discuss the three surgical anesthesia options and which will be best for you during the procedure. Your surgical team will also have a list of “Do’s and Don’ts” you should adhere to leading up to the surgery.
If you haven’t already, arrange for a friend or family member to drive you to and from the surgery because you’ll be in no condition to drive yourself after the procedure. Expect to be in “full rest” mode for the rest of the day following the surgery.