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What Are Dental Implants?

A dental implant is designed to look and function just like your natural teeth. A small titanium screw is placed into the jaw bone to act as a new ‘root’ for the replacement tooth. This creates a stable foundation for the abutment and dental crown which will close the gap left behind by a lost tooth. Dental implants are regarded as one of the leading options to replace missing teeth.

What is the dental implant composed of?

The implant is a titanium post placed in the bone. Since it is buried deep below the gums, the only way to see it is with an x-ray. The implant surface is specially prepared, so the bone cells of your body grow towards and attach to it. The implant has a screw hole inside for attaching other parts. The day we place an implant, we put a healing screw in the screw hole. This keeps material from getting inside the implant screw hole and allows the gums to heal nicely. After healing has occurred, the healing screw is removed and a piece called an abutment is screwed into the implant.

We use different types of abutments depending on what the implant is supporting. If the implant is for a single tooth, the abutment is a small post onto which a crown will be placed. If the implant is to be used under a denture or partial, the abutment is some sort of attachment that the denture or partial locks onto.

Losing your teeth is a serious problem that damages oral health, quality of life, and the beauty of your smile. If you’re looking for a solution that looks and feels natural, talk to our team of dentists at Austin Dental Plus about dental implants. Implants go a step beyond traditional bridges and dentures replicating the entire structure of your tooth seamlessly, so you enjoy the rejuvenation you need and the aesthetic value you deserve.

Our first step towards improving oral health and happiness will be to determine whether or not you’re the right candidate for dental implants. Is your oral health generally good? Is your jawbone dense enough to support the placement of one or more implants? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” we may ask that you to undergo additional procedures before implant treatment begins to increase your chances of success.

In the past, people with missing teeth had two choices to replace them, fixed bridges or removable teeth. Having a fixed bridge placed requires grinding down the teeth on both sides of the missing ones and cementing a metal and porcelain bridge spanning the gap of the missing teeth. The main problem with this method is the grinding which is done on the healthy teeth. Teeth which have been ground down in order to support a bridge have a 1 in 7 probability of needing a root canal in the next 5 years, and teeth with root canals have a higher incidence of breaking (especially when supporting a bridge). 

Your teeth are really not designed to support bridges, but it is something that we as dentists have managed to work with for many years. A bridge is like any other dental work in your mouth; it will not last forever and it is susceptible to cavities and decay. If you have a bridge in your mouth and something should go wrong with just one of the teeth supporting it, the entire bridge is compromised and has to be replaced.

Bridgework is also more difficult to clean and maintain than natural teeth or implants, since you need to thread floss underneath to clean them. Bridges have been used for many decades and have served millions of people well, but with the availability of dental implants and the superior service they provide, we have seen the need for bridges almost eliminated. Before implants became a part of dentistry, bridges were considered to be the finest treatment available for missing teeth, but they are now becoming a thing of the past for several reasons that we will go into.

Removable teeth (partials and dentures) are another option when replacing missing teeth. Dentures are used when a person has no teeth left in either the upper or lower jaw. Partials are used when only some teeth are missing. The main disadvantage to these appliances is practicality. They have to be taken out a night, make chewing food difficult, have to be removed and cleaned after eating, and can interfere with speech and sense of taste in some cases. Ask anyone who wears dentures or partials if they like them and see what they say 

Many people can never adjust to how a denture or partial feels in their mouth and are unable to wear them for that reason. Dentures and partials need to be replaced every 4 to 10 years because of changes in your mouth which cause them to stop fitting snugly.

There is another option, to do nothing and live with missing teeth. Missing teeth can be unattractive if in the front of the mouth, and the surrounding teeth will begin to shift and move around, changing the bite and possibly creating jaw problems. As teeth move around, they become difficult to clean and maintain, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Another problem is that when people lose too many back teeth, their ability to chew food becomes compromised which can lead to digestive problems. People who are missing their back teeth compensate by chewing their food with their front teeth that start to break down even faster because they were not designed for heavy chewing. Losing a tooth is like knocking over the first domino, starting a chain of events which can lead to more missing teeth.

Today, we can replace single or multiple teeth with dental implants, which are revolutionizing the way many dentists practice. A dental implant is basically a replacement tooth. It is a titanium post that is implanted into the jawbone where the root of the missing tooth used to be. It is the same type of medical grade titanium used for knee and hip replacements. We can use implants to replace a single missing tooth or multiple teeth by utilizing two or more implants and placing a bridge on the implants. Another use for implants is to stabilize dentures and partials.

An implant can be placed practically anywhere a tooth used to be, providing there is still enough bone to support it. When teeth are lost, the bone which used to support it gradually melts away, a process called resorption. This is why people who have no teeth and wear dentures have to have their dentures refitted (or relined) every few years. Eventually, the bone resorbs so much that there is nothing left to support the denture which becomes extremely loose and difficult to eat with. An interesting fact is that when implants are placed, the bone resorption stops.

The upper and lower jawbone treat the implants as if they were natural teeth and the bone stays where it should. Another interesting fact is that dentures and partials actually accelerate the loss of bone underneath them because of the pressure they exert on the gum tissue. Implants stop this by transferring the pressure of chewing from the surface of the gums to the inside of the bone, exactly as your teeth do. This is the main reason why implants are a better choice than dentures and partials, and also why it is important to have implants placed in a timely manner before too much bone resorption has occurred.

If a person is just missing one tooth, all the concepts we just discussed still apply. The bone resorption will occur in the area of the missing tooth, eventually to the point that not enough bone is left to place an implant and you are stuck with having to place a bridge or undergo bone graft surgery to build up bone density to support the implant. Ideally, we like to place an implant the same day a tooth is removed to minimize any bone resorption. 

Lower anterior crown lengthening + upper & lower implants (Dr. Aronoff) , full upper and lower crowns (Dr. Ostiago)

The dental implant process

A quote for all associated costs of your dental implant process is calculated once a comprehensive outline of the treatment plan, that is tailor made to you is complete.

With ongoing advancements in the technologies surrounding dental implants, since their creation almost 50 years ago, this previously costly procedure has now become far more accessible for many patients that are missing teeth. Treatment schedules, and payment plans exist to suit almost every pocket. Talk to our team for information and find out more about different options available to you. Some patients opt to set up a prepay account for treatment, and some arrange interest-free credit, financed in-house. A great advantage to embarking on the process of dental implant surgery is its gradual progression, paced over several weeks and months. While the mouth is going through the steps of preparation, followed by the surgical procedures and their subsequent recovery period, costs are staggered over a broad time frame.

How long do dental implants take to heal?

Every individual’s recovery time varies, though on average it is around 4 to 6 months. Gums are afforded the time they need to heal, before treatment progresses to the next step. While undergoing surgery to implant the titanium alloy post into the gum, the patient will undergo anesthesia that’s appropriate for them, so immediately after surgery, every patient’s recovery time will be specific to them. Patients should not drive or operate machinery after implant surgery.
Once each implant has properly healed in place, it is time to attach the abutment, which sets the restoration (crown) in place. Each component of the mechanics of dental implants varies depending on the specifications of the patient, creating a bespoke result, finish, and price point for every individual undergoing an implant procedure.

How do I choose the right dentist for implants?

Our best advice is to do your research while holding at the forefront of your mind, that your smile is the storefront to your looks and appearance. Deals exist for surprisingly low-cost dental implants, though a perceived saving in the present, might generate greater costs later to fix poor dental work. 

Check your dental technicians’ qualifications and experience

Seek out testimonials from different sources before deciding on one practice
Ask the practice manager to explain the dental technologies and materials used
at their office.

How do I decide between single and multi-unit implants?

Patients with one missing tooth, situated alongside neighboring healthy, natural teeth, might opt for a single unit dental implant. This comprises of three parts;
(i) Titanium alloy post, surgically embedded in the jawbone
(ii) Abutment fused to alloy post, providing a base for finished crown
(iii) Bespoke, custom made crown, replicating natural tooth above the gum line

Single dental implants – When is this case applicable?

The single unit implant is the option most closely resembling a natural tooth, in both appearance and functionality. Its situation in the mouth as an individual entity is the ultimate gold-standard fixed tooth replacement, which feels and is maintained exactly like a natural tooth. Individually, implants contribute significantly to the osseo-integration process in the bone, providing structure and helping maintain a youthful profile.

Multi unit dental implants

Patients missing several teeth favor multi-unit implants, which provide a structural foundation for a bridge, which multiple teeth can adhere to. Multi-implant dental implants close smaller gaps, while a complete set of replacement teeth requiring up to eight posts in total (including top and bottom) support durable, hard wearing and attractive dental prosthesis that will last for many years. This advanced treatment can boost the patient’s health and sense of well being for a lifetime.

Are dental implants better than a bridge?

The range of solutions for lost teeth include dental bridges. A bridge is a great option for closing a gap created by a missing tooth, and is a relatively affordable solution. Work can be completed in 2 visits to the dental office, and cosmetic results are impressive. The attribute implants have, which bridges lack, is their adherence to the jawbone; embedded in, and contributing to the structure of the jawline, as well as its appearance. Bridgework will cover a space cosmetically, though it should be understood it does not contribute to the retention of surrounding bone.

A bridge can be a good interim solution for a gap in a smile. As we age, many of us lose teeth, and our needs change. Dental bridges have the ability to be removed and replaced by implants as a patient’s dental status progresses.

What are the benefits of dental implants?

Look, feel and function, exactly like natural teeth

Provide structure; maintain integrity of jawbone
Risk of resorption is eliminated
Advanced titanium alloy material provides natural feel
Lifelong, permanent solution
Brush, floss, maintain like natural teeth
Ability to greatly improve shape, color, and appearance of teeth

What should I do if I need if I am interested in dental implants?

To find out if dental implants are right for you, discuss the results you’d like, and learn how any existing dental work might influence your choice of dental implant procedure, make an appointment today.

Make an appointment today to discuss dental implants and how they can replace missing teeth and restore your smile. Call our office today on 718-544-5055 for a free consultation.

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