A lost tooth can change the appearance of your smile, but it can also impair your health, making it difficult to chew and offsetting the balanced distribution of force from your bite. If a tooth is not replaced, the surrounding teeth can drift into its place, causing more long term complications. The tooth opposing it can also over erupt. To prevent these problems, dental implants are used to take the place of missing or damaged teeth, helping those with tooth loss to restore their smile while avoiding unnecessary health risks. Dental implants help stabilize bone in the jaw, preventing further bone loss due to missing teeth. This helps support facial skeleton, and in turn, soft tissue facial structures.
Here is a general outline of the treatment process:
Dental implants are placed into the mouth, and can be done in the office with local anesthesia. On the consultation appointment, the patient meets with the doctors and takes x-rays. Sometimes it is necessary to get a 3-D scan, called a CT scan to better view the nerves, sinus and the bone levels.
After a three to six month healing period, depending on the bone quality, a healing abutment is attached to the top of the implant. This is called second stage surgery. It relatively short and allows the gum tissue to form nicely when the permanent crown is placed. Not all implants require a second stage surgery. Sometimes the healing abutment can be placed at the implant placement appointment.
The final phase in dental implant treatment is the restorative process. This is when an artificial tooth, created to look and feel like the lost tooth, is made to fit the gap between existing teeth. An abutment is screwed onto the implant and is the support for the crown. Abutments can serve as support for one tooth or a set of teeth. It usually takes 2 to 3 visits to complete the prosthesis, but by the end you will have a permanent replacement for your lost tooth, a better smile, and the added benefit of maintaining your facial bone structure.
Dental implants are a great solution for tooth loss, as it restores the appearance and functionality of your bite. For long-term success of dental implants it is important to practice good dental hygiene and to schedule regular cleanings. Dental implants should be professionally cleaned every 3-4 months.