I remember going into my grandparent’s bathroom as a child and seeing their dentures soaking at night. Dentures were the norm until advancements in dentistry proved there was a longer-lasting and functional treatment available for missing teeth – dental implants.
What is a Dental Implant?
The majority of dental implants are made of medical-grade titanium. They are comprised of three structures.
- Implant body – a metal rod that is surgically anchored to the jawbone. This is entirely in the bone and mimics tooth roots.
- Abutment – a metal post that supports the artificial tooth (usually a crown) that is screwed into the implant body.
- Artificial tooth – this is usually a crown that is placed over the abutment.
Why Get a Dental Implant?
If you’ve got a missing tooth, you are eligible for a dental implant (and that means half of the U.S. population – not counting kids – is eligible for them). Dental implants have become more prevalent because they are more durable than removal dentures.
- If you have a missing tooth, you’re at risk of rapid bone loss, painful changes in chewing patterns, and defective speech – unless you replace it. Ever notice how grandma – if she ever let you see her without her dentures, had almost sunken-in-looking gums? That is caused by the shrinking of bone in the jaw. Dental implants retain the structure and integrity of the jawbones, so this doesn’t happen.
- Dentures only provide about half the bite power of a natural tooth. This makes it tough to eat certain foods. Dental implants provide the same level of power that natural teeth offer.
- Dentures are more aesthetically pleasing than missing teeth, but you must take them out at night. Unless you are going for that argh pirate look (and who knows, maybe it will be “in” soon), you probably want something more permanent. Dental implants are permanent. Plus, when done by an experienced provider, they look like a natural tooth.
- Missing teeth cause issues with speech. Remember when you lost your front teeth and couldn’t say certain things? The lisp in the “All I Want for Christmas” song is there for a reason. Get a dental implant, and you will remove speech issues from the equation.
What is the Process of Getting a Dental Implant?
Getting a dental implant is a multi-step process because successful placement requires adequate healing between steps. Before surgery, we remove the tooth and do a bone graft to retain the bone structure and prepare the area for an implant. You can learn more about that here. Next, we get a CT scan to tell precisely where the implant will go and see the nerves we want to avoid. This CT scan is done in-house to minimize the risk of errors. We then make an impression so we can build the surgical guide. This guide is essential for the precise placement of the implant and future crown.
You are given the same anesthetic on your surgery day when getting a dental filling. If you’re nervous, we can prescribe a Halicon pill, which is similar to valium, without the nasty side effects. The surgery takes only less than an hour for most patients. You are given pain medication and Dr. Andy’s cell number when you are released to go home. Most patients only need to take ibuprofen or acetaminophen to reduce pain, and some need nothing.
Once you are fully healed, which takes 2-4 months, you are ready to place your crown. We want your crown to look like your other teeth and that it is meant to be there. It should match the color and shape of your other teeth and feel and function well.
Dental Implant Risks
There are risks associated with getting a dental implant. However, there is a 98% success rate nationally. Regardless, please do your homework before getting it done because experience matters. Most local dentists will refer to an oral surgeon for the dental implant procedure, but these specialists don’t place the artificial tooth once the implant and abutment are fully healed. In this instance, the oral surgeon will refer back to the dentist for the crown. Have you ever heard the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen?” The more people involved in one procedure, the greater the risk of things going sideways. Each step in the dental implant procedure – from the bone graft to the crown placement – requires precision. Dr. Andy has advanced training in bone grafts, dental implants, and dental crowns and has been placing implants for over 15 years.
If you are missing a tooth or need to have a tooth removed, know your options and choose the one that most appropriately fits your current needs and future goals. Consider functionality, convenience, and experience. And if you’d like to talk with Dr. Andy about your need for a dental implant, call us to get on the schedule. We are happy to help.