The first step in the dental implant process is the development of an individualized treatment plan. The plan addresses your specific needs and is prepared by a team of professionals who are specially trained and experienced in oral surgery and restorative dentistry. This team approach provides coordinated care based on the implant option that is best for you.
Next, the tooth root implant, which is a small post made of titanium, is placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw. The healing process can take from 6 to 12 weeks.
Once the implant has bonded to the jawbone, a small connector post — calledan abutment — isattached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. To make your new tooth or teeth, your dentist makes impressions of your teeth, and creates a model of your bite (which captures all of your teeth, their type, and arrangement). Your new tooth or teeth are based on this model. A replacement tooth, called a crown, is then attached to the abutment.
Instead of one or more individual crowns, some patients may have attachments placed on the implant that retain and support a removable denture.
Your dentist also will match the color of your new teeth to your natural teeth. Because the implant is secured within the jawbone, the replacement teeth look, feel, and function just like your own natural teeth.
There are many advantages to dental implants, including:
- Improved appearance. Dental implants look and feel like your own teeth. And because they are designed to fuse with bone, they become permanent.
- Improved speech. With poor-fitting dentures, the teeth can slip within the mouth causing you to mumble or slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak without the worry that your teeth might slip.
- Improved comfort. Because they become part of you, implants eliminate the discomfort of removable dentures.
- Easier eating. Sliding dentures can make chewing difficult. Dental implants function like your own teeth, allowing you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and without pain.
- Improved self-esteem. Dental implants can give you back your smile, and help you feel better about yourself.
- Improved oral health. Dental implants don’t require reducing other teeth, as a tooth-supported bridge does. Because nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving your long-term oral health. Individual implants also allow easier access between teeth, improving oral hygiene.
- Durability. Implants are very durable and will last many years. With good care, many implants last a lifetime.
- Convenience. Removable dentures are just that; removable. Dental implants eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing your dentures, as well as the need for messy adhesives to keep your dentures in place.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that are made to match your natural teeth.
In general, dental implants are not covered by dental insurance at this time. Coverage under your medical plan may be possible, depending on the insurance plan and/or cause of tooth loss. Detailed questions about your individual needs and how they relate to insurance should be discussed with your dentist and your insurance provider.
Are There Alternatives to Dentures?
Yes, dental implants can be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost is usually greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the feel of real teeth. Dental implants are becoming the alternative to dentures but not everyone is a candidate for implants. Consult your dentist for advice.
The All-on-4 treatment concept was developed to provide edentulous patients with an efficient and effective restoration using only four implants to support an immediately loaded full-arch prosthesis.
All-on-4 offers clinicians and their patients various clear benefits:
Stability even in minimum bone volume
By tilting the two posterior implants, longer implants can be used in minimum bone volume, increasing bone-to-implant contact and reducing the need for vertical bone augmentation. The tilted posterior implants can be anchored in better quality anterior bone, reducing cantilevers and thus improving support of the prosthesis.
Good clinical results
Biomechanical measurements show that tilted implants, when part of prosthetic support, do not have a negative effect on the load distribution. The tilting of implants has been used in clinical practice for over a decade and has shown good results.
With All-on-4, patients benefit from an immediate implant-supported restoration, as a provisional prosthesis is screwed onto the implants right after surgery. Final solutions for All-on-4 include both fixed prostheses, Implant Bridge Titanium with acrylic veneering, or individual crowns cemented to the bridge framework, and removable solutions, such as acrylic overdentures on anImplant Bar Overdenture.
Are Dental Implants Covered by Insurance?
There are a few dental insurance companies providing coverage for dental implants, although at this time it is a rare occurrence. Typically, insurance companies consider implant surgery a cosmetic procedure, and do not provide payment. Some patients have found that medical insurance companies will pay for the procedure, if medical necessity is determined. In order to find out the details of your coverage with either your dental or medical plan, call your insurance company and ask for information regarding your coverage.
Most dental implants are successful. Sometimes, however, the bone fails to fuse sufficiently to the metal implant. Smoking, for example, can contribute to implant failure and complications.
If the bone fails to fuse sufficiently, the implant is removed, the bone is cleaned up, and you can try the procedure again in a month or two.
You can help your dental work — and remaining natural teeth — last longer if you:
- Practice exceptional oral hygiene. Just as with your natural teeth, implants, artificial teeth and gum tissue must be kept clean. Specially designed brushes, such as an interdental brush that slides between teeth, can help clean the nooks and crannies around teeth, gums and metal abutments.
- See your dentist regularly. Schedule dental checkups every six months to one year to ensure the health and proper functioning of your implants.
- Avoid damaging habits. Don’t chew hard items, such as ice and hard candy, which can break your crowns — or your natural teeth. Avoid tooth-staining tobacco and caffeine products. Get treatment if you grind your teeth.
Choosing your new artificial teeth
After the abutment is placed, your gums must heal for one or two weeks before the artificial tooth can be attached. Once your gums heal, you’ll have more impressions made of your mouth and remaining teeth. These impressions are used to make the crown — your realistic-looking artificial tooth, or prosthesis. The crown can’t be placed until your jawbone is strong enough to support use of the new tooth.
You and your dental specialist can choose from two main types of artificial teeth. They are:
- A removable implant prosthesis. This type is similar to a conventional removable denture. It contains artificial white teeth surrounded by pink plastic gum. It’s mounted on a metal frame that’s attached to the implant abutment, and it snaps securely into place. It can be easily removed for repair or daily cleaning. It’s often a good choice when several teeth in the lower jaw are replaced, largely because it’s more affordable than are multiple individual dental implants and yet more secure than a traditional denture.
- A fixed implant prosthesis. In this type, an artificial tooth is permanently screwed or cemented onto an individual implant abutment. You can’t remove the tooth for cleaning or during sleep. If affordability isn’t a concern, you can opt to replace several missing teeth this way. Each crown is attached to its own dental implant.
Whether you have dental implant surgery in one stage or multiple stages, you may experience some of the typical discomforts associated with any type of dental surgery. These may include:
- Swelling of your gums and face
- Bruising of your skin and gums
- Pain at the implant site
- Minor bleeding
If swelling, discomfort or any other problem gets worse in the days after surgery, contact your implant surgeon. You may need pain medications or antibiotics.
After each stage of surgery, you may need to eat soft foods for five to seven days. Typically, stitches that dissolve on their own are used. If your stitches aren’t self-dissolving, your doctor removes them in about 10 days.
Placing the abutment
When osseointegration is complete, you may need additional surgery to place the abutment, to which the crown will eventually be attached. To place the abutment, your gum is reopened to expose the dental implant. The abutment is attached to the dental implant. This minor surgery is typically done with local anesthesia in an outpatient setting. Once the abutment is placed, the gum tissue is then closed around, but not over, the abutment.
In many cases, the abutment is attached to the dental implant cylinder when the cylinder is implanted. That means you won’t need an extra surgical step. Because the abutment juts past the gumline, however, it’s visible when you open your mouth — and it may be that way for six months or so. Some people don’t like that appearance and prefer to have the abutment placed in a separate procedure.