Dental ImplantsUsually when you lose a tooth, it is best for your oral health to have it replaced. Missing teeth can affect your “bite,” as well as your ability to speak and chew. Their loss can increase the burden on your remaining teeth and can cause muscle pain in your jaws and headaches; and, of course, losing a tooth can affect your appearance.
The good news is that most of the time replacing a missing tooth is not an emergency. You have time to consider what replacement option is best for you and to make an informed decision. The following information reviews your general treatment options.
What Are My Tooth Replacement Options?
If you are missing one or more teeth and choose to have it or them replaced, several treatment options are available.
- A “flipper” is a removable plastic tooth that is inexpensive but fragile and temporary.
- A cast partial denture also is removable but is precision cast in metal for longer service life. Wire clips help hold it in place.
- A fixed bridge is cemented into place using crowns or “caps” on the teeth adjacent to the open space for support. Crown placement usually requires removing or reducing the outer layer of the tooth. In some cases a “Maryland” bridge, a fixed bridge that does not need crowns, is glued onto the back of the teeth adjacent to the space so that minimal tooth structure is removed.
- Full dentures or “plates” are the traditional solution for people who have lost all their teeth in one or both jaws. The success of a full denture depends upon the individual’s jaw size and shape, his or her oral habits, and his or her adaptability. Some people adapt well to full dentures, while others are not able to adapt. Dental implants can be used to provide support for the replacement of one tooth or all of an individual’s teeth. After years of research and clinical trials, we can now provide this option in addition to the traditional treatments just described. Implant-supported teeth can be cemented, screw retained, or removable and can be made attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.
Are Dental Implants An Option For Me?
If you are considering dental implants, your mouth will be examined thoroughly, and your dental and medical history will be reviewed to ensure that dental implants are appropriate for you. Dental x-rays and, frequently, panoramic (or complete) x-rays of your jaws will be taken to evaluate your jawbone and to determine if it will accommodate implants. Occasionally, more detailed information is required and can be provided by special x-rays. They will help determine if additional tests or procedures are needed to place your implants properly.
What Is A Dental Implant?
Dental implants come in various shapes and sizes and have different types of surfaces. The actual implant selection will depend on a variety of factors related to your specific treatment needs, and the most appropriate one(s) will be used. Once an implant has been placed in the jaw, the bone around the implant will need to heal for two to six months, depending upon your jawbone’s hardness. When this initial phase of healing is completed, a support post called an abutment will be placed into the implant itself; and then a new crown will be placed on top. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.
How Are Dental Implants Placed?
Usually the office procedure to place a dental implant takes about an hour for one implant and no more than two or three hours for multiple implants. The placement process consists of the following steps:
- If indicated, you may be given medication such as an antibiotic prior to the surgery. You may be offered sedation with nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) or intravenous medications. Then a local anesthetic will be administered to numb the areas where the implant(s) will be placed. It is our highest priority to make sure you are comfortable.
- After you are comfortable, a small incision is made into the gum tissue, revealing the bone into which the implant will be placed.
- Using special instruments, a socket is created carefully, avoiding damage to the bone.
- The titanium implant is then inserted into the socket.
- Finally, if necessary, sutures will be used.
After the implant is placed, the area will need to heal for as little as six weeks or as long as six months. How long your mouth will need to heal will be determined by a variety of factors. Follow-up care by Dr. Wiswell (one to four appointments) is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.The restorative dental work, which places the replacement teeth on the implants, is performed by your general dentist and is complex. It is, however, considered more comfortable and more pleasant than conventional dental care. Frequently, most of the work can be done without using even local anesthesia if that is your preference. Before the implant(s) are placed by Dr. Wiswell, speak with your regular general dentist to obtain an estimate of the restorative portion of your treatment. All of your restorative treatment is provided by your general dentist. It begins with specialized impressions that allow us to produce a replica of your mouth and implants. “Bite” records will also be made so that we see the relationship of your upper and lower jaws. With this information the abutments (support posts) that attach your replacement teeth to your implants can be chosen or made. Various types of abutments exist. Frequently, we can use “off-the-shelf” abutments. Other times custom abutments must be made of gold or a tooth-colored ceramic material. As you can imagine, these custom-made abutments add to the cost and treatment time involved. Which abutment to use is a decision that often cannot be made until after healing is complete and impressions have been made.
Dental Implants Presentation
To provide you with a better understanding of dental implants, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to dental implants are discussed.
The number of restorative appointments with your general dentist and the amount of time required for each appointment are different for each patient. No two cases are exactly the same; and regardless of the number of teeth replaced, the work must be completed with great precision and attention to detail. If you are having only a few teeth replaced, as few as three short appointments may be required. Between appointments, time is needed to complete the necessary lab work to make your replacement teeth.
If your final restoration is a removable denture, you will need to come to as many as five office appointments (although it may be fewer) over the following several months. During these appointments, a series of impressions, bites, and adjustments will be needed to make your new teeth, as well as the custom support bars, snaps, magnets, or clips that will secure your teeth to the implants. During this period every effort will be made to make certain you have comfortable temporary replacement teeth.
In general once your implants are placed, you can expect your treatment to be completed anywhere from 2 to 12 months. For these reasons it is difficult to predict exactly how much the restorative phase of your treatment will cost, although you should receive a reasonable estimate of costs. It also is difficult to give you a specific time frame for completion of your treatment until after the implants are ready for restoration. Before you proceed with any phase of implant-supported tooth replacement, talk with your general dentist, as well as Dr. Wiswell, to better understand your comprehensive treatment plan and the costs incurred by each of your treating doctors.