If you are missing one or more teeth, or your teeth have started to fail, dental implants can be an excellent solution. While dentures sit on your gums, leading to slippage and pain, dental implants actually integrate with your jawbone, providing a secure tooth replacement that allows you to return to a fully normal diet.
In addition, dentures do nothing to prevent resorption of bone and soft tissue by the body, eventually causing a sunken look and premature aging. Dental implants replace the tooth roots, stopping the process of resorption and preserving a natural, youthful appearance.
Yet dental implants are a big decision, and many people do not know what to expect. Here is a step by step guide to the process of placing and restoring dental implants.
1. Evaluation and Planning
The process starts with a thorough oral evaluation. Your dentist will take X-rays and scans, determine the current condition of your mouth, and make a plan for moving forward. It is important for you to ask questions, express your concerns, and work as a team with your dentist to develop the best possible plan for you.
2. Setting the Stage
Dental implants have an excellent success rate, but they must be given the best possible conditions. To minimize the risk for infection and implant failure, they need to be placed in a clean, healthy mouth. Therefore, your dentist will perform any other needed dental work, such as fillings or root canals, before starting your implant procedure.
3. Extraction / Bone Grafting (if needed)
Dental implants replace teeth, so the failing teeth must be removed. This is generally a simple procedure that involves only local anesthesia. Different levels of sedation are available for nervous patients or those with more complicated extraction needs. Your dentist will explain your options during the planning phase, and let you know if you will need someone to drive you home.
Because implants are anchored in bone, it is important to have enough good quality bone in the areas in which we are planning to have implants. Bone grafting replaces lost jawbone tissue, providing the implant with a strong base with which it can fuse. This is often done at the time of extractions, but occasionally is done separately. This is a fairly simple procedure, but it requires several months of healing before the new bone is ready to accept the implant.
4. Implant Placement
Placing a dental implant is a simple but precise procedure that is usually performed under local anesthesia. Your oral surgeon will gently cut a flap in your gum tissue, and create a small hole in your jaw. When the hole is just the right size, the implant will be screwed in and secured, and the gum tissue replaced.
Depending on your surgeon’s preferences and your individual situation, you might receive a cover screw or a healing cap. The cover screw is flat, and protects the implant until it is ready for the abutment, or the piece that attaches the implant to the crown. A healing cap is shaped similarly to an abutment, allowing your gums to heal in the proper contour. An abutment is the piece that will eventually support the crown.
In some cases, an immediate-load abutment and crown are placed along with the implant. In other cases, a flipper, or temporary replacement tooth, is used as a temporary cosmetic measure, especially for a front tooth.
5. Abutment and Crown
If you do not receive an abutment and temporary crown during your implant placement, you will receive the abutment after your mouth heals. This may be as little as a few weeks or as long as five months, depending on your individual situation. When you are ready, your dentist will reopen your gum and replace the cover screw or healing cap with the abutment. The final crown is placed on top.
If you are having several teeth in a row replaced, your dentist will have placed two or more implants in strategic locations. You will receive abutments for all of the implants, and a dental bridge, anchored by crowns that are attached to the abutments, will be placed at this time.
At Family Dental Care of Bellevue, we are committed to providing quality dental care to our patients and their families. We are proud to have been voted one of the best dental offices in Washington State. If you are ready to take the first steps toward improving your dental health, we invite you to call 425-643-5778 today to make an appointment for your initial consultation.