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Dental implants enable dentists to create healthy, attractive smiles in an innovative way. Used to replace one or more missing teeth, implants are another alternative to conventional bridges and dentures. In essence, dental implants act and look like natural teeth. Due to the fact that they maintain bone mass, dental implants can help prevent additional tooth loss as well as the sunken facial appearance associated with missing teeth. A dental implant restoration consists of a bio-compatible titanium screw and post topped by a crown, bridge or denture.
The implant is surgically placed into the jawbone where it replaces the natural tooth root. In a few months, the implant securely attaches to the bone (called “osseointegration”), allowing it to withstand biting and chewing forces just like a healthy, natural tooth.
The most common indications for implant therapy are:
Patients who successfully pass a screening and evaluation can be considered as candidates for implant replacement. The primary limiting factor inherent in implant therapy is the amount of bone available to receive and support the implant. If it’s determined that a patient does not have enough bone to support an implant restoration, bone grafting procedures may be considered. Heavy smoking and some medical conditions may preclude the use of implant therapy.
To determine the appropriate site for the implant replacement, dentists typically take x-rays. Some may prescribe CT scans as well. Impressions are taken of the mouth and then used by the dental laboratory to create a customized restoration. Many dentists fabricate surgical guides to simplify the placement of implants.
At the second surgical appointment, the dentist makes an incision to expose the bone at the implant site. The dentist then prepares the site to receive the implant. Once the implant is secured, the gum tissue is sutured back over the implant.
The implant is left undisturbed for three to six months to allow it to osseointegrate with the bone. If the implant is in a visible area of the mouth, the patient may choose to wear a temporary prosthesis during the healing period. Dentures may be relined with soft liners to allow patients to comfortably wear them during the healing process.
Once the implant has been completely integrated with the bone, a post is attached to the implant. The dentist then creates the permanent tooth replacement.
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