Schedule an Appointment With Your Dentist
Before deciding to get dental implants, you should schedule a consultation with your dentist or periodontist. Dental implants require surgery and are not suitable for everyone. Depending on your situation, there could be other options that are more appropriate, such as crowns, dentures, or bridges.
Talking to your dentist first will help give you a clear understanding of the process and if it’s right for you. They can sit down with you to discuss your options and give you an idea of what dental procedures or methods are available to suit your needs.
What Do Dental Implants Look Like?
Dental implants are artificial teeth that are more permanently attached to the jawbone to replace lost teeth. While it is expensive, implants are stronger than other dental devices and last longer. They also look and function naturally, and feel the most similar to natural teeth.
Types of Dental Implants
- Endosteal: This type of implant is the most common and primarily works as an artificial tooth root. The first part of the procedure consists of a small titanium screw or cylinder that the dentist inserts into the jawbone. This is done so that the implant can fuse with the natural bone, creating a sturdy base. Once the implant has bonded, an artificial tooth that is custom-made to match your natural teeth is then affixed to the screw or cylinder.
- Subperiosteal: These dental implants are still placed under the gum, but they do not affix to the jawbone and instead sit just above it. The artificial teeth then attach to metal posts that protrude through the gums.
What to Expect with Dental Implant Surgery
- Consultation. The first step is your initial consultation. This typically involves a comprehensive dental exam with x-rays and 3D scans taken of your teeth and jaw. From there, your dentist or periodontist will discuss the various implant options available to you based on your condition and needs.
- Dental implant surgery. The next step is part 1 of the operation where your dentist inserts the dental implant(s) into your jawbone. Though this may seem like it would be painful, dental implant surgery is considered one of the safest and least painful dental surgeries. Most patients recover quickly and can return to work or their regular schedule the following day.
- Osseointegration. After the initial surgery to insert the implants, you will need to go through a healing process called Osseointegration. During this time, the jawbone grows and bonds with the dental implant. This process can take several months as the bone and implant fuse to create a strong base for the artificial tooth.
- Abutment placement. Once the implant bonds with the bone, you will have an abutment inserted and attached to the implant. The artificial teeth will later attach to the abutment. Some dentists insert the abutment during the initial surgery, however, some patients opt to wait since the abutment visibly sticks out of the gums. Most feel that it is unsightly or uncomfortable to have the abutment visible and sticking out during the first several months of healing.
- Artificial teeth. After the gums heal for about two weeks from the abutment surgery, your dentist will make impressions of your mouth and existing teeth. The dentist then uses these impressions to make crowns, which are realistic-looking artificial teeth. The crowns attach by screwing them onto the abutment.
- Care and check-ups. After the surgery and the attachment of the crowns, which can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months, you will have regular check-ups with your dentist. To keep your new artificial teeth lasting longer, you should care for them the same way you would your natural teeth. Regular brushing, flossing, and dentist visits will help your crowns stay strong. You will also want to avoid chewing hard items like ice and hard candy.
Should You Get Dental Implants?
Because of the surgery involved, dental implants are typically only suitable for those in good overall health, but especially oral health. With the implants being attached directly to the jawbone, the procedure requires an adequate amount of bone in the jaw to support the implant. The gums also need to be healthy and free of disease.
As long as they meet these basic requirements, almost anyone can be a candidate for dental implants. Even young adults or teenagers can have implant surgery as long as they are no longer experiencing facial growth.
If any of the situations below apply to you, you may be a candidate for dental implants:
- Have missing teeth
- Have time to commit to the lengthy process
- Have good oral health
- Have good overall health
- Want sturdy, natural-looking teeth instead of dentures
- Have a fully developed jawbone
- Have enough healthy bone available for the implants to bond with
Risks of Dental Implants
Just with any surgery, there is always the possibility of having health risks or complications. However, with dental implants, the chances of having risks are low, and complications rarely occur. Of all dental surgeries and procedures, dental implants are one of the safest and most predictable. If difficulties do arise, they are typically minor and easily treated. Risks can include:
- Damage to surrounding teeth
- Nerve damage
- Infection at the site of the implants
- Sinus complications from implants protruding into sinus cavities
Benefits of Dental Implants
While implants aren’t right for everyone, they are often the better option if available because of the advantages over dentures, bridges, or crown caps.
- Look and feel. Implants comparatively look and feel the most natural. Since the implants sit right where the natural root of the tooth would usually be, they aren’t noticeable once any pain from the surgery has gone away.
- Long-lasting. Because they bond with the jawbone, dental implants are sturdier and hold up longer than other dental devices. While dentures and bridges can need replacing every 5 to 10 years, implants can last decades.
- Promote bone growth and a healthy mouth. When teeth go missing, that empty spot in the gums can lead to jawbone deterioration. Dental implants help to stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss. Implants also have the least impact on the surrounding teeth, unlike other devices that sometimes require grinding down remaining teeth.
Getting Dental Implants With Dr. Timothy J. Butson
Dr. Timothy J. Butson DMD, MSD, has been practicing dentistry for over 30 years. His office in Seattle, Washington, specializes in prosthodontics, which involves the diagnosis, rehabilitation, and maintenance of oral function that can become damaged from missing or weakened teeth.
With his sophisticated training and experience, Dr. Butson can give Seattle residents the confidence to live their lives with comfortable, natural-looking dental implants.