What are dental implants?
A dental implant is an entirely fake tooth which replaces your original missing tooth. Each dental implant consists of three parts, which are:
- Implant Fixture: The fixture is the screw which replaces your tooth root. Implant fixtures are typically made from Titanum or Zirconia.
- Implant Crown: The crown is the portion which replaces your tooth. Implant crowns are usually made from porcelain or ceramics and are either cement-retained or screw-retained.
- Abutment: The abutment connects these two pieces together. Again, abutments can be made from different metal alloys.
These three pieces work together to give you a fully functional tooth which resembles your original tooth. In fact, a well-fabricated dental implant is almost indistinguishable from your own natural teeth.
Why are dental implants so popular?
Dental implants are the best option to replace your missing teeth. This is because dental implants look and function similarly to your natural teeth. If you have missing teeth, your only alternatives to dental implants are bridges and dentures. However, neither a bridge nor denture is nearly as good as a dental implant. Here is why:
- Only dental implants preserve your jawbone.
- Dental implants do not harm your adjacent teeth the way dentures and bridges do.
- Implants provide for 100% chewing capability in contrast to only 20 to 40% for dentures.
- Dental implants give you the confidence of having your original teeth back.
What are the steps involved in receiving dental implants?
Receiving dental implants can seem a bit complicated at first. This is especially true if you’re receiving your first implant. To better understand the process of receiving dental implants, we’ve divided the process into four major steps, which are:
- Dental Implant Consultation: Your implant journey always starts off with a consultation. Do your research in advance so you know exactly what to expect. Also, don’t be shy, and feel free to ask your dentist any questions you have about your treatment. The implant consultation is the best time to discuss treatment and finances to see if dental implants are right for you.
- Surgical Phase: The surgical implant phase concentrates on building up your bone and placing solid implants into your jawbone. In addition to implant placement, many patients require bone graft, second stage surgery and other corrective surgeries. Typically, these surgeries are performed by an oral surgeon, periodontist or general dentist with specialized training in implant dentistry.
- Healing Period: Healing periods of several months is required for dental implants to integrate with your bone. The average healing time is about 3 to 6 months. However, healing times for more complex treatment may be up to a year or longer.
- Restorative Phase: The restorative implant phase focuses on placing a functional and aesthetic crown on top of your implant fixture. During the restorative phase, your dentist will make measurements and choose the color and shape of your final crowns. This is the best time to discuss how you want your final teeth to look like. Be as specific as you can and convey your expectations to your dentist clearly. Only through effective communication can your dentist give you the results you want and teeth that you’re going to love for many years to come.
Dental Implant Consultation
Before placing dental implants, you will have to schedule a consultation appointment. During your implant consultation, your dentist will work with you to decide the best course of treatment for your mouth. There are a lot of important decisions to be made during your implant consult, for instance:
- What is the best location to place the implants?
- How many dental implants do I need?
- What size of implants are suitable for my mouth?
- Do I require additional treatments, such as bone graft or sinus lift?
- How are my remaining teeth looking and can I keep them?
- Do I have any medical conditions which can delay the healing process?
- Is there any medication I’m taking that could cause a problem?
As you can see, dental implant treatment planning process can be quite involving. This is why you may have to work with a group of dental specialists, including periodontists, oral surgeons and prosthodontists, to achieve the best results. Alternatively, you can find a dental implant specialist who performs the entire treatment. Either way, you will require a thorough evaluation to determine if you’re a good candidate before implant treatment. The implant preparation process includes:
- Dental Examination: Your dentist will require a set of dental X-rays to access your jawbone and any remaining teeth. Typically, a CT scan or panoramic radiograph is required to examine your bone quantity and quality. During this phase, your dentist may take models of your teeth to fabricate study models, surgical guides or temporary teeth.
- Medical History Assessment: Your doctor needs to know about all of your medical conditions as well as any medications which you are taking. This includes over-the-counter medicine such as Aspirin and all other supplements which you regularly take. There are certain medical issues and medicines which interfere with blood coagulation or bone healing. It’s very important that your dentist knows your complete background prior to starting treatment.
- Dental Implant Treatment Planning: With your X-rays and models in hand, your dentist can start to treatment plan your implants. The more teeth which you’re missing, the more complex your treatment planning will be. Too few implants, and your prosthesis will collapse under bite forces. Too many implants, and your costs can skyrocket and restoration phase can become cumbersome. A proper implant treatment process is important to determine how and where to place your dental implants.
- Finances: We all know that dental implants are expensive. This is because not only are implant parts costly, but implant training is very rigorous and takes years to perfect. Luckily, almost all dental implant practices offer flexible monthly payment plan options. However, it is important to make sure you can afford your entire treatment in advance. Otherwise, you may have to look into dentures or alternative treatment options.
Dental Implant Surgical Phase
Dental implant surgery is an outpatient procedure performed by your dentist or oral surgeon. The surgery typically takes about 1 to 2 hours for most average cases and up to 4 hours for complex cases. Simpler cases typically require one to two surgeries, whereas complex cases require multiple surgeries. These include implant placement surgery, bone grafting, second stage surgery and other corrective procedures which may be indicated. Again, these all depends on the complexity of your treatment, for instance:
- Single Tooth Implant: Single tooth replacement cases are the simplest to treat, so long as you don’t run into any complications. For most cases, your broken tooth has to be removed, the area needs to be packed with bone graft and a dental implant fixture needs to be inserted. This process is typically takes 2 to 3 visits over the course of around 4 to 9 months. Alternatively, extraction, bone graft and implant placement can all be done in one session if your dentist is experienced in immediate implant placement.
- Multiple Tooth Implants: These cases can sometimes be similar to single tooth implants. However, occasionally additional bone graft or sinus augmentation may be required. This will add an additional surgery or two as well as a few months to your healing period.
- All-on-Four Teeth: All-on-four teeth is when you replace all of your teeth with dental implants. The surgery for all-on-four is typically completed in one setting. The teeth can be placed on top of the implants about 3 to 6 months after the surgery. There are also implant centers that perform the entire procedure in one or two days on patients who qualify.
- Overdentures: Overdentures are implant supported dentures. These are dentures with attachments that anchor on top of implants. Typically, all implants are placed during one surgical visit. After 3 to 4 months of healing, your new dentures are made and ready to use.
Following the surgical implant phase, you have to wait for your dental implants to heal before receiving your completed crown. Healing of dental implants occurs through a process known as osseointegration, which refers to bone growing into implant screw gaps. Healing time is important as it is required for your dental implants to integrate and lock in place. If an implant is loaded too early, before it has osseointegrated, it will fail. This is why it’s important to wait until your implant has healed before restoring it. Typically, dental implants need 3 to 6 months to fully osseointegrate.
Dental Implant Restorative Phase
Once your implants have been placed and given time to heal, it is now time to receive your crowns. The position of implant crowns is determined based on your bite and position of remaining teeth. Implant crowns are placed in an ideal position to maximize chewing and esthetic results. There are several different techniques dentists use to fabricate implant crowns. Regardless of the technique, you will receive your abutments and crowns within a few visits. Your dentist will discuss with you the ideal material for your abutments and crowns. Additionally, your dentist will decide which type of crown best suits your needs. There are two major types of crowns used to restore dental implants, which are:
- Screw-Retained Crowns: This is a once piece abutment and crown where the whole prosthesis gets screwed in. They have the benefit where your crown can be removed at will at any future time. Screw-retained crowns are a better option for more complex cases, heavy grinders and cases with a lack of sufficient restorative space.
- Cement-Retained Crowns: These are crowns which glue on top of your abutment. Cement-retainer crowns look better, since they don’t have a screw access hole in the middle. This makes them an ideal choice for cosmetic dental implants. However, these crowns can not be retrieved as easily and require a redo if they are ever damaged in the future.
If you have any other questions about dental implant procedure, please leave a comment below. If you’re interested in receiving dental implants in Orange County and San Clemente area, please call our office today to schedule your implant consult.
Brush ‘n Floss Yo Teeth!
Ali John Jazayeri, DDS