Protecting your oral health involves taking very good care of your teeth and gum tissues, and avoiding those things that can cause injury or damage. That said, it can sometimes be necessary to extract a tooth, or several teeth, from the mouth in order to protect or restore your oral health. When this occurs, it is important to install a replacement tooth as soon as possible, since leaving gaps in the mouth can create further oral health issues. In addition to helping support oral structure and function, tooth implants are also of cosmetic benefit, making them an important dental procedure for individuals who have suffered tooth loss.
Receiving Tooth Implants
While there are two main types of tooth implants, the basic purpose of each is the same–to serve as an artificial replacement for a tooth that has been extracted or lost due to periodontal disease, injury or some other reason. With endosteal implants, the implant is placed in the bone and made to hold one or more artificial teeth. With subperiosteal implants, the implant is placed on top of the bone and made to hold one or more artificial teeth.
In order to receive a tooth implant, the individual must have good oral and general health. The jaw bone must be strong enough to receive and support the implant, and the gum tissues must be free from periodontal disease so that they respond well to the implant and artificial tooth. Following are a few tooth implant options:
- Replacing one tooth with an implant and a crown.
- Replacing a few teeth with several implants and bridges.
- Replacing all teeth with several implants and bridges or several implants and full dentures.
Prior to receiving tooth implants, your dentist will perform a thorough examination of your teeth and mouth, including x-rays, in order to determine that implants are in fact the proper restorative dental treatment to fit your needs, and what type of implants will work best for you. She will ensure that you understand not only the benefits of receiving tooth implants, but also how the procedure works and what will need to be done in order to care for your implants. Once it has been determined that tooth implants are appropriate for you, there are three main steps in the implant procedure:
- The dentist places the implant into or onto the jawbone. The area will be anesthetized in order to make the procedure pain-free and as comfortable as possible. Endosteal implants (those that are placed into the jawbone) are the most common type of implant and the most structurally sound.
The bone around the implant will need to heal. During this process, which is known as osseointegration, your dentist will recommend that you stick to soft, cold foods and warm soup in order to minimize discomfort and further aid healing.
- It is vital that osseointegration goes smoothly, as the healing of the bone around the implant helps to make it even more strong and durable. The process can take several months, which is why those individuals who require more than one implant tend to receive them all at once.
- The artificial tooth or teeth are placed on the implant or implants. Single implants are normally covered with a dental crown, which is made in a specific size, shape and color to fit well in the patient’s mouth. Multiple implants are normally covered with a dental bridge or partial or full dentures, which likewise are made in a specific size, shape and color to fit well in the patient’s mouth. These replacements are made based on a dental impression that is taken only after the implant has been placed in the mouth. Temporary crowns, bridges or dentures are normally used until the permanent ones can be fabricated, placed and adjusted.
While tooth implants can be the right restorative or cosmetic dental treatment in a variety of situations, they should always be carefully discussed with your dentist to ensure that they are the right option for you. It is possible that there is another restorative or cosmetic dental treatment that is more appropriate and less invasive, especially if your health is an issue, so make sure you gather all the information you need prior to making a decision.