Tooth Implants

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Crowns, bridges, and dentures are familiar dental terms for most people, and all three are conventional approaches to replacing missing teeth. But they're not the only options for filling in the gap left by teeth lost through disease or an accident.

Dental implants, or tooth implants, are a more natural-looking and natural-feeling alternative for many people. Teeth implants are manufactured devices that are placed surgically in the upper or lower jaw and function as anchors for replacement teeth, which look and feel like natural teeth. If healthy, the surrounding teeth remain untouched. Implants not only improve the look of the teeth, but they stabilize the bite and help prevent problems with the jaw.

Tooth implants can be used to replace 1 or 2 missing teeth and can also be used for a full set of upper or lower teeth.

Am I a Candidate for Teeth Implants?

Candidates for teeth implants must be in good health both orally and physically and have healthy gums and an adequate bone structure to support the implant. Chronic diseases, such as diabetes, may interfere with healing after surgery and should be revealed to your dentist. Smokers should be aware that they are at greater risk of experiencing gum disease, which weakens the bone and tissues needed to support the implant. Your dentist (find a dentist) can evaluate all your factors to determine if dental implant surgery is an option for you. It is important to note that dental implants Beverly Hills, Los Angeles, New York and Chicago specialists may charge more for this procedure than those in smaller cities. Your dentist will discuss payment and financing options with you during a comprehensive consultation. (How much do dental implants cost?)

Dental Implant Surgery

Implant surgery can be performed as an outpatient procedure in either a dental office or in a hospital, and a local or general anesthetic may be used.

The implant process usually takes place in 3 steps over several months. It can be performed by a dentist or a specialist, such as a periodontist, prosthodontist, or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.

The first step involves the surgical placement of the implant in the jaw and can last up to several hours, depending on the scope of the procedure. Once in place, the top of the implant is slightly visible above the top of the jawbone. A screw is inserted into the implant to protect it from gum tissue and other debris. The gum is then secured over the implant. It remains covered for 3 to 6 months, giving the implant time to fuse with the bone. This process is called osseointegration.

During the second step, the implant is uncovered and the dentist attaches an extension, called a post, to the implant. The gum tissue is allowed to heal around the post which, along with the implant, serves as the foundation for the new tooth.

In the third step, the dentist makes a custom artificial tooth, or dental crown, that matches the surrounding teeth in size, shape, color, and fit. Because several fittings may be required, this step can take 1 to 2 months to complete. The crown is attached to the implant post, and the process is complete.

There may be some swelling and tenderness for a few days after the first phase of the dental implant surgery. Pain medications and/or antibiotics are usually prescribed for any discomfort and to ward off infection, and a diet of soft foods is recommended during the healing process.

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