What Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root. It is a titanium anchor that is placed into the jaw bone and forms a permanent platform upon which your dentist can place your new tooth, bridge, or partial or full denture. Implants are used to replace missing teeth and offer an alternative to removable devices like flippers or full or partial dentures. They are comfortable and natural looking, and they require only typical oral hygiene care. For over 20 years, dental implants have been the standard care for the treatment of missing teeth.
The dental implant is composed of three parts:
- The Implant—This is a titanium screw that the oral and maxillofacial surgeon places into the jaw bone. This forms the root of your new teeth.
- The Abutment—This cap is placed on top of the implant. There are two types of abutments: the healing abutment will be placed at the time of your surgery and will remain in place until your implant is integrated into your bone; the final abutment will be placed after the implant is fused into the jaw and will anchor the permanent restoration (tooth, bridge, or denture) to the implant.
- The Dental Restoration—This is the visible tooth in the mouth. This can be a single tooth, bridge of teeth, or a complete denture.
Dental implants are the solution of choice for most people, even those patients with the following concerns:
- Children—Although young children can NOT have a dental implant while they are still growing, dental implants can be used to replace broken, extracted, or congenitally missing teeth once full jaw bone maturation occurs (usually around 18 years of age for girls and slightly later for boys). We are sensitive to the cosmetic concerns that children and teens have and are happy to see children as soon as a problem is identified; early diagnosis and surgical planning will help these young patients get timely restorations as soon as physically possible.
- Existing Medical Conditions—If you can have routine dental treatment, you can usually have an implant placed. However, certain medications and conditions require special attention. Dr. McGrath is very attentive to the implications of these situations on dental implant use. A thorough discussion of your particular concerns/conditions will occur during your initial consultation.
- Smokers—Although smoking slightly lowers the success rates of implants, it does not eliminate the possibility of getting them. Dr. McGrath will review these lifestyle concerns with you to make sure that you have the greatest chance of successful dental implant use.
- Gum Disease, Bone Loss, or Problem Teeth—Bone loss and periodontal disease are very common among implant patients. With proper oral care, almost all implants placed in patients who have gum disease have been successful. Inadequate bone is a common occurrence in patients who have been missing teeth for a long time. Oral and maxillofacial surgeons utilize specialized treatments such as bone grafting to place the implant in the bone safely and securely.
Dental implants require advanced planning and coordination between your primary dentist and your oral and maxillofacial surgeon. At your initial consultation, all of your restoration options will be reviewed. Together, you, your dentist, and your surgeon will develop a personalized plan for your dental implants. Many patients need only basic X-rays before implant placement while others require 3D X-rays, models, and surgical guides. After your implant is placed, you will need to wait 6 to 16 weeks for it to fuse with your jaw bone. In many cases, your dentist can fashion a temporary restoration for this time period. You will have several visits with the oral surgeon during this waiting period to ensure that proper healing occurs. After the implant fully integrates with your jaw bone, either your surgeon or your referring dentist will place your final abutment. The restorative dentist will place the permanent restoration. Our implant team stays in close contact with you and your dentist to make sure everyone understands what needs to be done to ensure a successful outcome.
Maxillofacial implants are made of the same titanium as dental implants and are used to help reconstruct parts of the orofacial region (such as an ear or eye) that have been lost due to disease or trauma. The surgical procedure is similar except that the implant is placed through skin incisions.
Dr. McGrath has been placing implants in the orofacial region since 1992 and is one of the most experienced implant surgeons in Australia.
The Dental Implant Procedure
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed in your jaw bone. For the first three to six months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually bonding with the jaw bone. You should be able to wear temporary dentures and eat a soft diet during this time. Meanwhile, your dentist is forming new replacement teeth.
After the implant has bonded to the jaw bone, the second phase begins. Your doctors will uncover the implants and attach small posts, which will act as anchors for the artificial teeth. These posts protrude through the gums. The artificial teeth are then placed, and these posts will not be seen. The entire procedure usually takes about six months. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life.
Want to know more about dental implants? Click here for more resources.