If you have missing or damaged teeth, your dentist may advise that dental implants are the best way to keep your bite and facial features from losing alignment which will in turn enable you to smile confidently. Dental implants are artificial teeth roots that are placed on or in the jawbone. Over time, the bone grows over the new root, holding it firmly in place. Once this is done, artificial teeth can be attached to the roots to replace the missing or damaged ones. The process may sound simple, and while it is common, it is not a quick one.
Types of Dental Implants
There are 2 types of implants:
Endosteal implants are inserted into the jawbone to replace a tooth root that has been removed or has fallen out.
Subperiosteal implants are inserted under the gum but are not drilled into the bone. These are used if the dentist determines that there is not enough healthy bone available to support the drilling procedure.
Evaluation: The implant process starts with an evaluation of your jawbone, gums and teeth to determine if you have enough bone to support an implant or if the subperiosteal procedure should be used and if you are free from periodontal disease.
Implant Placement: In the case of an endosteal implant, the dentist will cut the gum where the implants are to be placed to give access to the jawbone. Holes will then be drilled into the bone and the implant post or root will be put in place. The incision (or incisions, if more than 1 implant is to be placed) will be closed. In some cases, a temporary denture is put in place to fill the gap until the permanent new tooth is attached.
Osseointegration: Once the root has been placed in the gum, it will typically take between 2 to 6 months for the new bone to grow over the root and hold it in place. Osseointegration means to combine with the bone.
Abutment Placing: In many cases, an extender, known as an abutment, is added to the root. This is used to connect the artificial tooth to the root. The abutment may be placed either along with the implant or during a later minor procedure.
Attaching the Tooth: Once the healing is complete, the replacement tooth will be put in place. At some stage during the process, an impression of your tooth will have been made and this will be used to shape and size the new tooth so that it fits easily and looks natural. You may be offered the option of a removable tooth (which can be taken out at home for cleaning) or a fixed tooth that will be permanently cemented into place.
Dental implant is an outpatient procedure. The complete process typically takes between 3 to 9 months because of the number of steps involved and the healing time required for each one. Your dentist will be able to give you a better idea of how long your case will take.