Crowns and conventional bridges or dentures may not be your only options when replacing missing teeth. For some patients, dental implants offer a smile that looks and feels very natural. Implants offer stability due to their fusion to bone. Integration of implants into your jaw also helps your replacement teeth feel more natural and some patients also find the secure fit more comfortable than conventional tooth replacement options.
Surgically placed below the gums over a series of appointments, implants fuse to the bone and serve as a base for individual replacement of teeth, bridges or full and partial dentures. First surgery is performed to place the anchor. Surgery can take up to several hours, and up to six months may be required for the bone to grow around the anchor and firmly hold it in place. Some implants require a second surgery in which a post is attached to connect the anchor to the replacement teeth. With other implants, the anchor and post are already attached and are place at the same time. After the gums have had several weeks to heal, the next step is begun. The artificial teeth are made and fitted to the post portion of the anchor. Because several fittings may be required, this step can take one to two months to complete. Implant surgery is usually performed in a periodontal dental office, and the restoration of the implant at a general dentist. A local or general anesthetic may be used. Usually pain medications and, when necessary, antibiotics are prescribed.
Because implants require surgery, patients must be in good health, have healthy gums and adequate bone to support the implant, and be committed to meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental visits. If you are considering implants, a thorough evaluation by your general dentist will help determine whether you are a good candidate for dental implants.