Replacing a missing or damaged tooth with a dental implant is the best option for most people. A dental implant is a permanent, long-lasting solution that looks and functions like a natural tooth and keeps the jaw bone strong.
Are you thinking about getting a dental implant? If so, this overview of the dental implant process will help you to know what to expect.
Consultation and Examination
The first step to getting a dental implant is to have a comprehensive exam, radiographs, and consultation with the restorative dentist. The dentist will evaluate your gum health and the bone density of your jaw in the area where the implant is to be placed. For an implant to be successful, there must be sufficient bone there to support it. If not, you will be referred to a periodontist or oral surgeon for a bone graft or sinus lift procedure. A 3D image of your jawbone (CBCT) will be necessary before an implant can be placed.
If the existing tooth is still in place, the restorative dentist will confirm that the tooth cannot be saved before recommending extraction and replacement. If there is any chance that the natural tooth root can be left in place and covered with a crown, that may be a better option. It would not only allow you to keep more of your natural tooth but also save you money.
If it is deemed necessary, a bone graft or sinus lift procedure will be done before the implant is placed. If there is any question about the strength or thickness of the jaw, these procedures will ensure a more successful implant placement. This is often needed when a tooth has been missing for a significant period of time, long enough that the jaw bone has begun to resorb or shrink.
A bone graft procedure involves placing a piece of bone, either artificial or from an animal, underneath the gums and over the existing jaw bone. This procedure will strengthen the jaw bone and encourage regrowth of that part of the jaw. It will take months for the jaw to be ready to receive an implant following this procedure.
A sinus lift procedure is similar to a bone graft, but it is done in the upper jaw to prevent the risk of the implant protruding into the sinus cavity. The upper jaw bone is not always thick enough to support an implant. Therefore a sinus lift involves placing a piece of artificial or animal bone over the existing bone to thicken it and make room for the implant root.
Placing the Implant Root
Once the jaw bone is ready to receive the implant, the root placement procedure can take place. The root portion of an implant looks like a metal screw that is surgically placed in the jaw bone. The gum tissue will be opened up, the implant root placed, and the gum tissue replaced. The implant will need months to fuse with the bone to form a secure hold.
Attaching the Abutment
The next step involves placing the abutment on the implant root. The abutment is the piece that protrudes slightly above the gums that the crown will be attached to. During this procedure, the gum tissue will be reopened and the abutment attached. Ideally, the gum tissue around the abutment will be given time to heal before the crown is placed.
Fitting the Crown
The final step is the fitting of the crown. The crown is the artificial tooth that is created to resemble your natural teeth in shape, size, and color. As long as it fits properly and looks right during the fitting it will be permanently attached. It is placed over the abutment and permanently cemented into place. If not, the crown may be sent back to the lab for further adjustments. When it returns, it will be fitted again. Permanent placement will not occur until the crown fits properly.
Implant-Supported Bridges and Dentures
In some cases, dental implants are placed as anchors for a bridge (row of artificial teeth) or dentures (a complete arch of teeth). In this case, the jaw bone must be strong to support the dental implants as they will be bearing the load of additional artificial teeth. If necessary, a bone graft or sinus lift can be done in preparation for this as well.
Implant-supported dentures are more secure than traditional prosthetics and do not require any suction or adhesives to stay in place. It is also a more affordable option than receiving more implants.
Restore Your Smile With Golia Dental
Restorative procedures can help you keep your natural teeth as well as replace your teeth with lasting, functional alternatives. When a tooth or multiple teeth cannot be saved, dental implants and implant-supported dentures and bridges are a viable option for replacement.
Call (203) 248-7400 today to schedule a consultation or contact us to make an appointment. We look forward to helping you restore your smile.