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If your smile is missing a tooth or two, it may be more than just a hit on your confidence. Gaps between your teeth may degrade the jaw bone and affect the overall shape of your face. If you're looking to fill holes in your smile, dental implants may be a great option.
So what are dental implants? Well, they're exactly what they sound like. They're replacement teeth that are surgically implanted into your jaw. Dentures can slide and may need to be replaced frequently because of chronic bone loss, and bridges require that any adjacent teeth be reshaped. Being attached to your jaws keeps dental implants from sliding around your mouth like dentures, and adjacent teeth don't need to be reshaped for a dental implant to be placed.
A dental implant involves 3 pieces of hardware. The first is a screw that serves as the root for the teeth and is placed deep into the jaw. The exact process may vary depending on who and where the surgery is performed, but generally, a patient's gums are numbed, then the gums are cut into to expose where the implant will be placed. Then a hole is drilled into the jaw, the screw is placed, and the gums are stitched around and over it. It may sound like medieval torture, and admittedly x-rays of the screws can look pretty gnarly to the layman, but since the patient has been numbed prior to the procedure, they typically don't feel any more discomfort than getting a filling. With this first part of the process complete, the patient must wait about 6 to 12 weeks for the bone to grow into and unite with the surface of the screw in a process called osseointegration. The patient may opt to have a partial placed for aesthetics while they wait for the jaw to heal.
Once the bone has healed and integrated with the screw, the abutment can be placed. This is a connecting piece that is attached to the implant and holds the crown in place. The gum is opened up again, but this time, after the abutment is placed, the gum is only closed around it, not over. Another difference is that there is less time between this and the next phase. This is because, unlike the jaw, the gum only needs a couple of weeks to heal.
With the gums healed, all that's left is attaching the crown. Your dentist will need to make an impression of your teeth. This is used to make a model of your bite which helps ensure the best fit for the replacement tooth. The tooth itself can be attached permanently or be made detachable.
Dental Implants represent a permanent option for those looking to fill gaps in their smile. They may cost a little more upfront, but with proper care can last up to 25 years. Dental implants don't slip, and typically don't need to be replaced as often as dentures may need to be.
If you'd like to learn more about dental implants, contact our office. At Consultants in Dental Aesthetics, we provide comprehensive aesthetic dental care using the latest technology to provide faster, safer, and more relaxing treatment. If you're ready to schedule an appointment, please click here to schedule online, or click here for a virtual consultation.