What Are Dental Implants & How Do They Work?

Implant next to a healthy molar - 3D rendering

Having a radiant smile full of healthy teeth isn’t merely about appearance; it can significantly impact your quality of life, from boosting self-confidence to enhancing overall health. Nowadays, due to advances in dental technology, maintaining a vibrant and beautiful smile has become more attainable than ever. Among the modern treatments available are dental implants designed to replace missing teeth.

But what do dental implants look like?

Like natural teeth, dental implants seamlessly blend with the rest of your teeth, restoring function and your smile and self-esteem.

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants or teeth implants are restorative dentistry that provides replacement teeth. They comprise titanium screws, which serve as artificial tooth roots securely placed in your jaw bone. This implant post serves as the stable foundation for a dental crown, which mimics your real teeth. They not only replace lost or damaged teeth but also prevent bone loss and encourage bone growth, maintaining your facial structure and oral health.

Dental implants last 10 to 15 years, but with proper care, their lifespan can be up to 25 years or more.

Types of Dental Implants

Understanding the various options for dental implants can ensure you make an informed decision for your oral health.

Primarily, dental implants come in three forms:

  • Endosteal Implants: These are the most commonly used types of dental implants. They function as artificial tooth roots, directly inserted into the jawbone. Once the healing of the surgical site is complete, a second surgery connects a post to the original implant, where the artificial tooth, or dental crown, is attached.
  • Subperiosteal Implants: When patients have insufficient bone height, subperiosteal implants make viable alternatives. They are placed on or above the jawbone, within the gum tissue. A frame gets fitted onto the jawbone just underneath the gum tissue. As the gums heal, this structure becomes fixed to the jawbone with posts attached that protrude through the gums. The artificial teeth or crowns are then mounted onto these posts.
  • Zygomatic Implants: These are the least common type and are only used if the patient has insufficient quantity or quality of jawbone for the placement of traditional implants. The implant is placed in the cheekbone (zygoma) instead.

Each type of dental implant optimizes and enhances your dental care plan. A consultation with your dentist would help determine the most suitable for your specific circumstances.

How Do Dental Implants Work?

What Are Dental Implants & How Do They Work?

Here’s the typical dental implant process you can expect:

  • Initial Consultation: Your dentist will evaluate your oral health, take X-rays or 3D images, review your medical history, and discuss your treatment options. This is when you’ll decide whether to proceed with dental implants.
  • Treatment Plan: If you choose to get implants, your dentist will create a personalized treatment plan that considers factors like the number of teeth you need replaced and the condition of your jawbone.
  • Tooth Extraction: If the tooth that needs to be replaced is still present, it will be extracted.
  • Bone Grafting (if necessary): If your jawbone isn’t thick enough or too soft, you might need a bone graft before dental implant surgery. This process involves transplanting a piece of bone from another part of your body or using a special bone grafting material to strengthen your jawbone.
  • Implant Placement: The dental implant, a titanium post, is surgically placed into your jawbone beneath the gum line. This oral surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia. Sedation can also be an option for patients with dental anxiety or who require complex oral surgery.
  • Healing Process: Over several months, the implant will fuse with your jawbone in a process called osseointegration. This makes the implant a sturdy base for your new artificial tooth.
  • Abutment Placement: Once healing is complete, an abutment (an extension of the implant metal post) is attached to the implant. In some cases, this can be done at the same time as the implant placement.
  • Impressions for New Tooth: Your dentist will make impressions of your mouth and remaining teeth to create the crown (the artificial or prosthetic tooth).
  • Teeth Replacement Placement: Once the dental crown, denture, or dental bridge is ready, your dentist will attach it to the abutment. Your new artificial tooth is made to match your natural teeth in color and shape.
  • Follow-Up Appointments: After your dental implant procedure, regular follow-up appointments are necessary to ensure the implant, abutment, and crown are functioning properly.

What Are Dental Implants Made Of?

The materials used in dental implants are crucial to their success.

Below are the two key materials:

  • Titanium: The core part of the dental implant, or the metal post, is made of a biocompatible material like titanium. This implant post is surgically inserted into your jawbone, serving as the artificial tooth root.
  • Zirconia: Zirconia, also known as ceramic dental implants, is a relatively newer type of dental implant material. It offers a metal-free alternative to traditional titanium implants. One significant advantage of zirconia implants is their color. Unlike metallic implants, zirconia is white, similar to the color of natural teeth. This can lead to a more natural-looking result, particularly in cases where the gum is thin and might otherwise show a grey metallic line.

Remember, choosing long-lasting, high-quality dental implants crafted from these materials can optimize oral health and function for many years.

Potential Risks Involved With Dental Implants

Given that dental implant surgery falls under surgical procedures, it does harbor some potential risks. However, it’s essential to underscore that dental implants typically have high success rates with the right care and attention.

The potential risks may incorporate:

  • Risk of infection: As with any surgery, there’s a slight chance of infection post-surgery. However, strict adherence to dental hygiene routines, including regular cleaning around the implant site, significantly reduces this risk.
  • Implant Failure: Though rare, in some cases, the body may reject the implant or fail to integrate properly with the bone. This eventuality is significantly lowered when performed by experienced dental professionals and adhering to post-operative care directives.
  • Injury to Surrounding Structures: Rarely, surrounding teeth or blood vessels may get injured during surgery. However, thorough planning and careful surgical techniques can help minimize this potential risk.

Remember, maintaining good dental health practices, keeping up with regular dental check-ups, and adhering to proper aftercare protocols can significantly minimize these potential risks and ensure the successful integration of the dental implant.

Conclusion: Achieving Better Oral Health With Dental Implants

Dental implants are an excellent treatment method for tooth loss, providing a natural appearance and functionality while improving bone health. However, maintaining good oral hygiene, avoiding dental decay, and visiting your dentist regularly can prevent tooth extraction and maintain natural teeth, eliminating the need for dental implants in the first place.

If you’re considering dental implants to replace your lost or decayed teeth, contact us today for your initial consultation. We can determine if you’re a good candidate for this tooth replacement option and estimate how much you expect to spend for the whole treatment. Our dentists are experienced in providing this treatment, backed by our state-of-the-art technology.