Dental Implants

A modern alternative for tooth replacement.

What is a dental implant?

dental implants and other prosthodontic services by crabtree dental office in katy txAn implant is a dental device that substitutes for missing teeth. The device is implanted in the bone of your jaw and functions as an artificial tooth root. Dental prosthetics such as crowns, bridges, and dentures can be attached to the implant to restore the function of your teeth and create an aesthetically pleasing smile. The field of dental implantology was first introduced more than 50 years ago. Rapid advancements in the field in recent years have allowed implant procedures to become more widely used.

How do dental implants work?

Dental implants are metal posts surgically inserted into the jawbone to serve as replacement roots for missing teeth. Replacement teeth are later attached to the implant and look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The most common kind of implant is a root-form endosseous implant. It is made of medically pure titanium; the same material used for orthopedic appliances such as hip and knee replacements. Thanks to the process of osseointegration; the jawbone fuses to the titanium implant, creating a strong anchor for prosthetic dental restorations such as crowns, bridges, and dentures. Since implants are placed in the jawbone, the health of that bone is a prime consideration in determining if a patient is an implant candidate. Sometimes a patient will need a bone graft in order to achieve the best outcome from dental implant surgery.

Am I a candidate for dental implants?

You may have lost a tooth to periodontal disease, decay, or trauma. Or, your tooth may be missing from birth due to a congenital anomaly. Regardless of the reason for tooth loss, if you are missing one tooth, several teeth, or all of your natural teeth there is likely an implant option for your particular need. Imagine replacing a tooth that has been missing for years with an implant that looks and functions almost exactly like a natural tooth. Since implants are placed in the jawbone, of paramount consideration in placing implants is whether the jawbone is healthy enough to receive the denture. Our dentists can guide you to the best alternative based on your particular dentition. Ask yourself the following questions to decide if implants may be an option for you.

+ Are the teeth surrounding the tooth in healthy condition? Click here.

If the health of the adjacent teeth is such that they need to be restored with a crown, a fixed conventional dental bridge can be a good alternative to replace a single tooth. But if the adjacent teeth don’t need restoring, a single tooth implant allows for restoration of the missing tooth without involving otherwise healthy teeth. Unlike a bridge, which requires treating three teeth or spaces in your mouth to restore one, a single tooth implant affects a single tooth or space.

+ Do you wear a partial denture to replace several teeth missing in an area of your mouth?

Perhaps you are missing all the back teeth on one side of your lower jaw. Two dental implants could be strategically placed in your bone: one near the back of your jaw and the other closer to the front of your back jaw. An implant-supported fixed dental bridge could be placed to span the empty space. The implants serve as the anchor to hold the fixed prosthesis in place just like retainer teeth do in a fixed conventional dental bridge. Say goodbye to your partial denture!

+ Are you missing all the teeth in either or both of your upper or lower arches?

When a patient is missing all of their teeth in an arch we say they are “edentulous” in that arch. In the past, the only solution for this condition was to fit the patient with a removable prosthesis called a removable full denture. The denture is held in the mouth by suction and while one can become accustomed to the fit and feel of a denture, they do not mimic natural teeth. Because they are not fixed into place they can be unstable; consequently, getting a secure fit can be problematic and sometimes impossible. Additionally, conventional dentures should be removed at night, so the emotional aspect of putting your teeth into the glass on the bedside table is ever present when an edentulous patient wears conventional dentures. Thanks again to advanced dental technologies, edentulous patients are now able to have implant-supported dentures. Patients are surprised to learn that only two to four implants need be placed in an arch to provide the anchor support needed to secure the denture in place. Removable dentures become fixed into place when connected to the implant anchors and simply snap off for cleaning. Patients with implant-supported dentures report that they feel more comfortable, natural, and stable than conventional dentures. Implant-supported dentures do not need to be removed at night, so the bedside table dilemma is gone for good.

 

two implant teeth depicting the stages of receiving a dental implantHow long does it take to enjoy the benefits of an implant?

The process of treating implant-supported teeth can take five to nine months involving the following three stages of treatment:

  1. Placing the implant post – A titanium post inserted in the jawbone which functions as an artificial root. This is the part that “osseointegrates”. It is often shaped like a screw. Allow 3-6 months for osseointegration. (If a bone graft is needed to ensure successful integration, an additional 3 months may be necessary to complete this stage).
  2. Placing the implant abutment – An extension to the implant, this cap-like structure screws onto the implant and serves as the support the dental prosthesis is affixed to. The healing process for this stage takes about 3 weeks.
  3. Fabricating and placing the implant prosthesis – Custom fitted to the abutment, the fixed dental prosthesis (crown or bridge) is fabricated and cemented into place, or in the case of a denture, snapped into place. After an impression is taken of the healed area, it can take 2-4 weeks to fabricate and place your final restoration(s).

older couple holding each other and smiling in the outdoorsHow can a bone graft improve the success of dental implant surgery and other dental procedures?

After a tooth has been extracted, the bone can shrink and become so thin that an implant may not integrate effectively. In such cases a bone graft can be performed to increase the functional and/or aesthetic success of an implant. In fact, bone grafts can improve the outcome of many dental replacements and restorations. The grafting material is made from mammal bone which has been ground into powder and sterilized. All the organic material is removed from this natural, processed bone material, leaving only the mineral content. The dentist places this powder at the site of the extraction or area where bone is needed. The graft serves as a “biological placeholder” by acting as scaffolding to prevent surrounding tissues from caving in. It also keeps the surrounding bone shrinkage to a minimum while the body begins to heal. Over time, a process known as “guided tissue regeneration” occurs when the human body biochemically recognizes the material as bone and begins to resorb and replace it as the body’s own. Bone tissue can regenerate completely when provided the space in which to grow, eventually replacing the introduced graft material with newly created native bone.

How do I care for my dental implants and implant-supported prostheses?

They should feel quite natural and as such you will enjoy brushing your teeth just as you would your natural teeth. If you have implant-supported bridges, you will need to add an extra step to your floss regimen by flossing underneath the pontic. You will benefit from the use of a special device called a floss threader to thread the floss through. Regular dental visits for examination and cleaning will ensure that your implant-supported prosthesis is evaluated for its role and function within your mouth. Our dental hygienists will utilize special techniques and tools to keep your implants clean. It may be necessary to have more frequent visits to have your dental hygienist clean your implants.

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