So you’re missing a tooth.
Whether it’s due to decay, injury, or something else, losing a permanent, adult tooth can feel embarrassing, scary, and like it’s a really big deal. Fortunately, it doesn’t have to be!
Getting an unhealthy tooth removed and out of your mouth is an important part of oral health. If you’re worried about aesthetic or functionality issues that can come along with a gap in your gums, you might be interested in a dental implant.
Dental implants are great at keeping your smile attractive, but they do a lot more than that. Among other things, dental implants provide the structural stability and functionality that you might miss after having a tooth removed.
Why should I get an implant instead of a bridge?
Dental implants are different from dental bridges.A dental bridge is a false tooth that is held in place by a crown cemented onto the abutment teeth on either side of the gap. While this is the most traditional approach to filling a gap left by a missing tooth, it causes strain on more of your teeth and will degrade within 5-10 years.
A dental implant replaces the absent tooth’s root, without needing to involve or damage any adjacent teeth. By replacing not only the missing tooth but also its root, this process secures the jawbone which will slowly erode after tooth loss. The tooth’s root also helps to absorb some of the forces needed to chew fibrous foods, like fresh fruits and vegetables. Dental implants are considered a much more permanent tooth replacement than dental bridges.
Who should place dental implants?
The short answer is that when you’re having a dental surgery, you should see an oral surgeon.
Compared to a regular dentist, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon is a dental specialist that has spent an additional four to six years of medical school and hospital residency training and practicing their surgical skills practically. Many oral surgeons have an MD (Doctor of Medicine) to go along with their DDS (Doctor of Dental surgery). This means that oral surgeons not only have more training, but they are exposed to a wider variety of complications that might occur during surgery. Since an oral surgeon is a specialist, they can handle unexpected complications immediately on site rather than sending the patient elsewhere.
While general dentists can perform implant surgeries, The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA), has found that the success rate of dental implants is higher in dental surgery practices when compared to the same procedures being performed by general dentists.
So how does it work?
Unlike a lot of other dental procedures, dental implants have multiple phases usually performed several weeks apart.
Phase one is the surgical placement of the implant. You’ll be numbed up or even placed under IV sedation so you won’t feel any discomfort or pain. The tooth root implant will be installed into your jawbone through an incision made in your gums. One the implant is placed, your surgeon will close the gums over the implant so that the implant itself remains covered and heals in a healthy way.
Phase two will come after several weeks of rest and recovery. This gives the bone plenty of time to grow around the implant making a strong bond that will stay in place in a process called osseointegration.
Phase three comes once your dental surgeon determines that your implant is healthy and secure. They will place an abutment, a connecting piece that goes over the implant post. This is the part that will hold your beautiful new tooth!
One your gums have healed, your dentist will make impressions of your teeth and create a custom replacement tooth called a crown which is attached to the abutment.