Have you ever wondered how the process of getting a dental implant works? If so, continue reading because I am going to explain it from start to finish!
Missing teeth have several negative effects on your oral health, which we talked about in a previous post (click here to read it, if you haven’t already). If you’ve been missing a tooth for a while, or need to have one taken out, dental implants are definitely the number one option to replace a missing tooth. Bridges and partials definitely have their place, but a dental implant is really the only true tooth replacement option. When doing a bridge, you have to prepare the neighboring teeth for crowns, when they might not necessarily need crowns (unnecessarily removing healthy tooth structure). And if something goes wrong with one of the teeth it’s anchored to, the whole bridge is compromised. Partials can be a good choice for replacing several missing teeth, but that’s still something you’ll have to take in and out to clean.
A dental implant is a freestanding tooth that you can brush and floss like a normal tooth. Implants have many functions. They can be used to replace one single tooth, to replace multiple teeth with a bridge, for a full arch fixed restoration, or to help with the retention of a denture.
So how does the process work? First of all, if you have a tooth that is non-restorable, we would need to have that tooth extracted. When having the tooth extracted, it’s important to do a bone graft in the site to preserve the height and width of the bone, and to give good solid bone for the implant to be placed into. Once the tooth is extracted, we need to allow the bone to heal for approximately 4 months.
Once the bone is healed, you are ready to have the implant body placed. The implant body is the “screw” that acts as the root for the tooth. At this stage, we reflect the tissue and prepare an “osteotomy” or the hole for the implant to be placed. There are many factors to consider when deciding what size diameter and length implant to use. Some common factors include bone width, bone height, proximity to the inferior alveolar nerve, space between teeth, and position of sinus relative to bone, among others. Once the implant body is placed, we will either place a healing abutment or a cover screw, then suture the tissue back into place. After this initial appointment, we will allow the bone to heal with the implant through a process called osseointegration, which takes about 3-4 months depending on the quality of the bone.
After the osseointegration process is complete, you are ready for the impression for the crown. The first step for the impression is to place a healing cap if we haven’t already. In this process, we will uncover the implant and place the healing cap. You will wear the healing cap for about two weeks. What this does, is allows the gums to form the correct way to give a good emergence of the implant crown so that it looks natural like a tooth coming out of the gums. If we already placed the healing cap at the time of implant placement, all we need to do is unscrew the healing cap, screw in our impression post, and take an impression. Then we would replace the healing cap.
The last step is placing the final implant crown into the implant. This can be done two different ways: One is a screw-retained crown, which is one piece that screws directly into the implant, then the screw hole is filled with filling material. The other option is to have an abutment, which is screwed into the implant, then the crown is cemented on top of the abutment. Now your implant and smile are complete!
It is important to care for your implant just like you would any other tooth. Although the implant will not get decay, it can still have bone loss if it’s not kept clean. Just treat it like any other tooth! You can brush, floss, use a WaterPik on the implant, etc.
If you have any questions about dental implants, or would like to schedule a consultation to see if you’re a good candidate, feel free to give the office a call at 317-773-9992.