The Implant Process
If you don’t have a dental implant, you probably know somebody who does. These devices have become a common means in the past thirty years of providing patients with replacement teeth. They now come in a wide variety of materials and can support single crowns, bridges, and removable dentures. But although they have high rates of success, they do require some upkeep, and patients should be especially attentive to their oral health while an implant is integrating with their jaw bone tissue.
To determine whether a patient is a good candidate for implants, their dentist will need to take x-rays of their jaw bones and to know about any medical issues the patient has that could put them at risk for gum inflammation or a compromised immune system. They will also need to remove the necrotized remains of the original tooth. When the implant post is placed in the jaw bone, a patient often only requires local anesthetic. However, a dentist may have other sedation options available if the patient expresses particular anxiety. The process by which an implant fuses with the jaw bone, known as osseointegration, can take between two to six months. During this time, the patient may be provided with a temporary dental crown.
Once an implant post has integrated, a connector called an abutment will be placed on it. While the implant post is entirely concealed within the bone and gum tissue, the abutment is visible in the moth. Depending on the treatment, an artificial crown may be cemented onto the abutment, or a denture may be designed to snap on and off it. To make a customized crown, a dentist will take a clay impression or digital scan of the patient’s mouth. The crown will be colored to match the patient’s natural teeth, so the dentist will also discuss cosmetic treatment with the patient. Abutment and crown placement have their own recovery process, but patients usually only experience minor bruising or bleeding.
Caring and Complications
Fixed implants are usually cared for in the same manner as natural teeth: with twice a day brushing and flossing. If a person has removable dentures, they will need to brush around the implant abutment before putting their dentures in each day. When a person does not maintain good oral hygiene, they will be at higher risk for continued jaw bone deterioration. If a person’s jaw bone recedes too much or the implant fails to integrate, the implant will have to be removed.
It is often the case that when an implant fails, a second attempt will succeed. However, a dentist will want to ensure that whatever factors that contributed to the implant’s failure, such as inflammation from poor hygiene, smoking, or uncontrolled glucose, has been resolved. Properly cared for implants usually last for over six years, and may last the duration of a patient’s life. They also have the significant advantage of triggering new jaw bone growth, which helps to stabilize the other teeth and maintain the shape of a patient’s face. When a patient does not have sufficient jaw bone material for an implant to be placed, an oral surgeon may graft bone tissue onto their jaw, which an implant post is then inserted into. If inflammation around an implant is caught early, it may be possible to save the implant by professionally removing infected gum tissue.