How a Tooth Implant Works

If you are missing a tooth or teeth, an implant-supported replacement may be a great option for you. A tooth implant is a titanium-based replacement tooth that is surgically placed in your jaw bone. Implants look and feel like natural teeth and help support the surrounding bone structure. A well-designed and maintained dental implant can last a lifetime.

Before you get a dental implant, you will meet with several health professionals to plan the procedure and ensure it will be safe for you. These health professionals include a dentist who specializes in conditions of the mouth, jaw and face (oral and maxillofacial surgeon), a doctor who treats the structures that support your teeth, such as gums and bones (periodontist), and a dentist who designs and fits artificial teeth (prosthodontist). Your health professional will also take X-rays and 3D images of your jaws and teeth to help identify potential issues that could impact your treatment.

Once you and your health care team agree that a tooth implant is the best solution, you will have the procedure done in stages. Initially, your oral surgeon or periodontist will examine your jaw bone to see if it is thick enough to support the implant over time. If it is not, they will determine whether you need a bone graft before continuing with the surgery. A bone graft involves transplanting tissue from elsewhere in your body to strengthen or thicken the jaw bone. It can be done using natural or synthetic bone material. If a significant graft is required, it will take days or months to heal before the implant can be added.

Next, your dentist will prepare the site for the implant by making an incision in your gums to expose the bone. They will then use a drill to create space in the bone for the implant screw. Your provider will place the implant screw and connect it to a metal spacer called an abutment. The abutment extends past the gum line and is visible when you smile. If you do not want this part to be visible, you can have it capped or covered with gum tissue.

While you are healing, it is important to avoid habits that can cause complications, such as smoking or chewing on the area that has been operated on. If you have an implant, it is also important to visit your primary care health professional regularly for screenings and blood work. This will allow them to determine if any chronic conditions you have, such as diabetes, are having an impact on the success of your dental implant.

Once you have healed and your implant has bonded to the bone, your dentist will add a custom replacement tooth, known as a crown, to the abutment. The crown will be made of a tooth-colored material that blends in with the rest of your teeth. Once it is complete, you will be able to enjoy your restored smile.