What Are Dental Implants and How Do They Work?
Dental implants are a way to replace missing teeth. You may be surprised to learn that dental implants go as far back as 1,500 years. And, of course, with today’s technology, this dental procedure is safer and more effective than ever.
Dental implants are simply rods that are inserted into the gums. For those with missing gum tissue, implants may be drilled into the bone. The implant’s rod is then covered with a dental crown, which looks exactly like a real tooth.
Dental implants have a very high success rate, which means that they aren’t known to cause many adverse reactions. And once they’re in, they function exactly like natural teeth, allowing you to bite and chew exactly as you would otherwise.
Who Needs a Dental Implant?
Anyone who has a missing tooth may consider a dental implant to replace it.
There are many reasons why someone may lose a tooth. While we commonly associate missing teeth with aging, almost three-quarters of young adults have one or more teeth missing.
This may happen for any of the following reasons:
- Tooth decay: Unfortunately, tooth decay is one of the most preventable causes of missing teeth. However, a large portion of the population experiences cavities, which — if left untreated — can lead to tooth loss. This makes it important to see your dentist for twice-yearly checkups. If you’re prone to cavities, you might want to go even more often.
- Gum disease: Although it’s closely linked to tooth decay, gum disease is slightly different. It’s caused by bacteria that invade the gums, which can lead to inflammation. If not treated in time, gum disease can destroy gum tissue, making it easy for teeth to fall out.
- Accidents: Our teeth aren’t bulletproof. That’s why accidents, such as those from contact sports, can cause them to fall out upon impact. In other cases, teeth may chip or crack, which can make it necessary to extract them.
What To Expect During a Dental Implant Procedure
If your dentist recommends a dental implant procedure, you can expect to get it done over the course of two visits. This may be accompanied by several days of preparations and a few days of aftercare.
Here’s what you might be able to expect during a dental implant procedure:
1. Initial Consultation
Before proceeding with a dental implant, your dentist must ensure that you’re a candidate. Most people are candidates for dental implants, but those with little gum tissue or bone in their jaw may need to undergo procedures like bone grafting before proceeding.
During the initial consult, your dentist will provide you with a full examination which includes X-rays and possibly a CT scan. If you’re cleared for the procedure, then your dentist will schedule an appointment for dental implant surgery.
2. Pre-Surgery Preparation
You may be offered the option to get sedated before the procedure. If you choose to do so, you will have to arrange transportation after your appointment. Driving yourself home or taking public transportation may be dangerous.
If you choose to get sedated, you will also have to avoid eating too much before your appointment. Ideally, your stomach should be empty when the I.V. is administered, so skipping breakfast is generally recommended, but your dentist can advise you further.
Last, any alcohol or other sedating substances should be avoided for at least 24 hours before your appointment.
Whether you choose to get local or general anesthesia, your dentist might prescribe an antibiotic to take several days before getting your implant. This will help to prevent implant failure — which is what happens when your body rejects the implant.
Although implant failure is rare, it can affect those with compromised immune systems. For this reason, discussing it with your dentist is very important.
3. Placing the Implant
Your dentist will begin the procedure by administering anesthesia.
If you choose general anesthesia, you will fall and stay asleep during the entire procedure.
If you choose local anesthesia, you will have the medication injected into your gums. This may feel painful for several seconds, but quickly numb your mouth so that you don’t feel anything at all.
Once anesthesia is administered, your dentist will make an incision into your gums and drill a small canal in them. This will create the space for the implant to be inserted.
Following the drilling, the implant will be inserted into the open space. Your dentist will close the gums over it to speed up healing and send you home to heal. This concludes the dental implant procedure.
4. The Healing Stage
After the procedure, your mouth should feel completely numb. It’s important to follow proper aftercare, which includes avoiding eating for several hours, sticking to cold foods, and keeping the area clean.
Once the anesthesia wears off, you may feel pain, swelling, and tenderness. If the pain is moderate or severe, you can take over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers or the ones your dentist prescribed you. You may also be asked to take antibiotics to make sure your body doesn’t reject the implant.
While you heal at home, your implant should fuse with your jaw. This process — also known s osseointegration — ensures that your implant stays firmly in place.
To speed up healing, eat healthy meals, follow a consistent oral hygiene routine, and avoid smoking. It may also help to apply an ice pack to the implant site for several days after the procedure.
5. Placing the Crown
After the healing process is complete, you can return to your dentist to place a crown over the implant. The healing process may take approximately three months.
While you don’t have to see your dentist immediately after healing is complete, it’s better to make your appointment sooner than later — this will allow you to resume normal chewing and biting sooner.
When you come in for your final appointment, your dentist will place an abutment over the implant, which acts as a connecting piece. They will then take impressions of your teeth and create a dental crown, which will be placed over the implant.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
A dental implant is made to last forever, so once it’s in, it’s in.
However, the crown on top of the implant is a slightly different story. Just like your regular teeth, dental crowns are exposed to normal wear and tear. So, you may experience chips, cracks, and other undesirable changes.
In general, dental crowns can last up to 15 years. If they show signs of extensive damage, they can be easily replaced.
Dental implants are safe, effective, and can restore the natural function of your teeth.
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Suppl 1: A Brief Historical Perspective on Dental Implants, Their Surface Coatings and Treatments | NCBI
Implant success and survival rates in daily dental practice: 5-year results of a non-interventional study using CAMLOG SCREW-LINE implants with or without platform-switching abutments | PMC
Current trends in dental implants | PMC
DEALING WITH DENTAL IMPLANT FAILURES | PMC
How Long Does a Crown Last? Average Lifespan of a Dental Crown | Healthline