Did you know that dental implants—artificial replacements that are set into the jaw bone so that they look and feel like your natural teeth—are often the best option for replacing missing teeth?
Traditional bridges and removable dentures are highly successful for replacing missing teeth, but require cutting the anchor teeth, and can lead to bone loss and other oral health complications. Dental implants can replace a missing tooth without harming the structure of surrounding teeth and may help preserve the jaw bone. Implants can also anchor dentures to make them more stable and retentive. Long-term studies have shown a high success rate for patients with dental implants. And with proper at-home care, under the guidance of your dental care team, they may last a lifetime.
The first step in placing a dental implant is surgery to insert a metal anchor (called the implant fixture). The anchor is secured in the jaw bone, below the gum line. The implant and bone are then allowed to heal for two to six months in order to form a permanent bond between the implant and the bone. Temporary replacement teeth may be worn during this stage. Later, a smooth, dome-shaped cap (healing abutment) is attached to the anchor, and your gums are allowed to heal around the cap to form a cuff that will surround the new crown when it is placed. Some procedures combine these first two steps (immediate implants) and temporary crowns may be worn. Finally, your dentist will attach a permanent crown to the anchor to replace the missing tooth.
Dental implant surgery may take place in your dentist’s office or in a hospital using a local or general anesthetic. Some people take antibiotics before the procedure, and some need ibuprofen, acetaminophen or some other pain medication afterward. Your dentist will advise you on foods you may need to avoid eating and how to care for your teeth and gums after implant surgery.
After healing is complete, it’s important to care for your new dental implant along with the rest of your teeth. This includes gently brushing at least twice a day, with special attention to the gum line, and flossing at least once every day. You should also visit your dentist regularly for checkups and cleanings and to monitor the condition of your implant.
If you’re considering dental implants, talk with your dentist about whether you’re a good candidate for the procedure, what surgery will entail, what recovery will be like, and how much it will cost. Together you can create a treatment plan to keep your smile healthy.
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“Dental Implants.” In Dental Materials: Clinical Applications for Dental Assistants and Dental Hygienists 3 ed., Hatrick C and Eakle W . pp 184-200. Saunders, St. Louis, 2016.
“Implants.” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/i/Implants.aspxAccessed 2016.
“Brushing Your Teeth” Mouth Healthy, American Dental Association. www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/b/brushing-your-teeth.aspx Accessed 2016