A tooth implant is a permanent replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. They are made of titanium, a biocompatible metal that integrates with the bone. Dental implants can restore chewing function, improve facial appearance, and enhance oral hygiene by eliminating the need for dentures. They also prevent the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing or extracted. Unlike dental bridges, which require support from adjacent teeth, dental implants do not impact the health of surrounding teeth. Despite their lifelong durability, tooth implants do require some maintenance.
Before you can have an implant placed, it is necessary to visit a specialist who can perform a full exam of your mouth and jaws to see if the procedure is a good fit. This exam may include dental X-rays and 3D images, or models. The patient’s general health and ability to heal are also important factors. Patients with uncontrolled chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, or autoimmune conditions that interfere with healing may be disqualified from receiving an implant. Smoking severely impedes the body’s ability to heal, so patients are usually advised to quit smoking before and after surgery.
The surgeon will plan the placement of your dental implant. For most patients, the surgical recovery period is short and relatively comfortable. There will be some bruising and swelling, but this is typically mild and can be easily controlled with over-the-counter or prescription painkillers. During this time, the patient should avoid putting pressure on the area, spitting excessively, or drinking through a straw as these activities can lead to dry socket and cause additional pain.
During the actual implant surgery, the dentist will create a small opening in the jawbone where the implant will be placed. Then, he or she will drill into the bone to place the implant post, which is the equivalent of a tooth’s root. A metal spacer will be attached to the implant, and a dental crown will be placed on top of it to form a new natural tooth.
After the surgery, the patient will need to follow a strict dental care routine. This will include brushing twice daily with a soft-bristled toothbrush and flossing once a day to remove any food debris or bacteria that could lead to infection. In addition, patients will need to visit the dental office for regular cleanings and exams, which will be performed under a local anesthetic.
For most people, a single implant is all that is required to replace one or more lost or damaged teeth. The patient’s gum tissue must be free of periodontal (gum) disease, and the underlying jawbone must be healthy to support the implant. The patient should also be committed to good oral health habits, including avoiding tobacco use and visiting the dentist regularly to address any problems before they get worse.