A dental implant is an artificial tooth root placed into the jaw bone to hold a replacement tooth or a bridge in place. Implants do not rely on neighbouring teeth for support. This makes implants a more conservative method of tooth replacement as adjacent teeth are not touched.
Since dental implants integrate into the structure of the bone, they can prevent bone loss or gum recession that can some times accompany bridge work or dentures. Some of the benefits of implants are as follows:
The case selection for a dental implant is very important. An ideal candidate for implants should be in good general and oral health. Bone support of the jaw should be good, there should be no periodontal disease and the patients should be in good systemic health.
If a single tooth is missing, one implant can be done to replace it, the implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighbouring teeth. Dental implants integrate with the jaw bone and become one with it. The bone becomes more dense and does not resorb. In the long run a single implant can be more aesthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge.
Placement of the Implant
Implants look like screws. They are surgically placed into the jaw by drilling a hole in the jaw the same size as the implants. This is done by using water cooled drills which do not heat during use and thus cause no damage to the bone.
Over the next 4-6 months the implant and the bone are allowed to bond together to form an anchor for the replacement tooth. During this period a denture is worn over the surgical site.
In the second step of the procedure the dentist uncovers the implant and attaches an abutment. The gums are allowed to heal for a couple of weeks following the procedure. Some implant systems do not require this procedure. A metal post called an abutment completes the foundation on which your new tooth will be placed. Finally a replacement tooth called a crown is made and attached to the abutment, creating a new tooth.
Replacing All Teeth
If all teeth are missing an implant supported bridge or denture can replace them. These bridges and dentures are more comfortable and stable than conventional dentures and thus allow more natural biting and chewing capacity. Also, the bone is better preserved. However, as earlier, the patient selection is very crucial and everybody cannot be a candidate for implants. The dental surgeon is the best person to judge who is a good candidate and who is not.
Dental implants however are an expensive form of treatment and, as explained, do need a minimum of 2-6 months for treatment. The treatment is also technique sensitive and should be done by an experienced person.
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