Of all the ways modern dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants are by far the best. There is no tooth-replacement option that will give you a longer-lasting result. Implants also help preserve tooth-supporting bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost. Loss of bone is one of the major hidden consequences of losing teeth.
A dental implant most often takes the form of a small, screw-shaped titanium post that replaces the root-part of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure used to place an implant is actually quite minor and routine, requiring only local anesthesia in most cases. After a healing period, the implant is topped with a lifelike crown custom-made to match your existing natural teeth. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95%, which is significantly higher than any other tooth-replacement option.
How Implants Work
Dental implants aid in replacing a single tooth, several teeth or even all of your teeth. The implant itself looks like a screw and is gently placed into the jawbone in the space vacated by the missing tooth. It will then be left to heal for a few months before the final crown is attached. During this healing period, the implant and jawbone bond together to provide an anchor for the crown.
Sometimes several teeth need to be replaced, and implant-supported bridges are a prime option as opposed to fixed bridges or removable partial dentures. The bone is better preserved with implant-supported bridges as it replaces some of your tooth roots that had been previously removed.
Replacing all of your teeth is also possible with implant-supported full bridges or implant-supported dentures. Patients are able to preserve their natural bite with implants and achieve more comfort and stability than with conventional dentures.
Tooth Replacement Options Using Dental Implants
Implants can replace missing teeth in a variety of ways. They can be used to:
Replace One Tooth — When you have one tooth missing, a single implant is inserted into the bone to replace the root part of that tooth; a crown then goes on top to simulate an actual tooth. This treatment choice has the highest success rate, making it the best long-term investment for replacing a single missing tooth. Even if the initial cost is slightly higher than other options, it is the most cost-effective solution over time. An implant will never decay or need root canal treatment, and feels just like the tooth that was there. To view before and after photos
Replace Multiple Teeth — When you have more than one tooth missing, implants provide an ideal replacement mechanism. You don't even need one implant for every missing tooth. Instead, implant teeth can act as supports for fixed bridgework. For example, if you are missing three teeth in a row, we can place two implants, one on either side of the gap, and a crown in between that has no implant underneath. That way, you won't need to use any of your remaining natural teeth as bridge supports, which could weaken them and make them more susceptible to decay. To view before and after photos
Replace All Teeth Permanently — Implants can support an entire arch of upper or lower replacement teeth that are fixed into the mouth and are never removed. Sometimes the new teeth can be supported by as few as 4 implants. It's comparable to the structure of a table, which only needs 4 legs to hold it up. In cases where jawbone density and volume have deteriorated, 5 or 6 implants might be needed to support a row of 10 to 12 teeth. Dental implant replacement teeth protect your jawbone, won't slip, and should last a lifetime.
Support Removable Dentures — Implants can even make removable dentures more comfortable, effective and healthier to wear. Traditional dentures rest on the gums and put pressure on the underlying bone. This accelerates bone loss so that the jaw shrinks and the dentures slip, particularly on the bottom. But today dentists can attach a removable denture onto implants, transferring that pressure into the bone structure rather than the bone surface. This prevents the dentures from slipping while you eat and speak, and preserves the bone directly beneath them. To view before and after photos
Why are Implants Better than Dentures and Bridges?
There are other routes a patient can take to replace missing teeth, including dentures and bridges; however, dental implants are a much better solution for many reasons.
- Adjacent teeth do not have to be altered to support an implant, such as with bridgework. This is significant for your overall oral health by leaving more of your own teeth untouched. With a tooth-supported fixed bridge, the adjacent teeth are ground down to support the fixed bridge.
- Dental implants are integrated into the structure of your bone, thus preserving your bone and preventing any further bone loss that can sometimes be attributed to bridgework and dentures.
- Dental implants function just as your natural teeth do, offering you more comfort and stability than conventional dentures.
Post-Surgical Care Instructions for Implants
Rest with your head elevated when you arrive at home after the procedure. We ask that you please limit your physical activity and keep moving to a minimum for the first 24 hours.
For the first 4-5 hours after the surgery, we recommend placing an ice bag to your face in 20-minute intervals. This will help reduce facial swelling. If needed, you can use an ice bag for 24-hours.
Please take anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) to prevent inflammation, swelling, and pain. For the next 4-5 days, we suggest taking 400mg-800mg of Ibuprofen every six hours to reduce swelling and pain and quicken healing. DO NOT take more than 2400mg in a 24-hour period. If you experience excessive pain or discomfort, take the narcotic that has been prescribed to you. If you do not have one, please call our office and the doctor will call in a prescription to your pharmacy. Please take as directed along with the NSAID. If you’ve been prescribed an antibiotic, please take as directed. We ask that you finish the entire dosage. If any of the medications are causing you extreme nausea, itching, or a rash; discontinue its use and call our office immediately.
IF YOU EXPERIENCE BLEEDING
For the next few days following your surgery, some minor oozing may occur and is no cause for alarm. Gently rinse your mouth out with iced water or iced tea (tea contains tannic acid which can help stop the bleeding). We ask that you refrain from smoking and drinking alcohol as these activities will interfere with blood clotting and healing of the implant. If your bleeding continues, apply pressure to the implant site by pinching the area with a moistened piece of gauze for 20 minutes. If your bleeding is moderate to heavy and has continued for a few hours without stopping, please call our office immediately.
When you arrive home after surgery, you may have something very soft to eat or cold to drink. In the evening on the day of your surgery, we recommend eating a soft, bland meal as this is usually the best way to help you feel better. For the first week, please do not eat anything hard or crunchy. Remember, you are to avoid chewing on the side with the dental implant for 8 weeks.
CARING FOR YOUR MOUTH
We strongly request that you continue your regular oral hygiene habits on all other areas of your mouth. Please use an antiseptic mouthwash at least once in the morning and once at night before bed until your next appointment with our office. You can also swab the dental implant area with a cotton swab dipped in an antiseptic mouthwash every morning, every night before bed, and after eating and drinking. Please do not brush or floss the dental implant area for the 1st week after surgery as this will hinder the healing process. Also for the next month, please DO NOT use an irrigation tool, such as a Water Pick.
Although proper oral hygiene is always recommended for maintaining good dental health, it is especially important when a patient has received a dental implant. Bacteria can attack sensitive areas in the mouth when teeth and gums are not properly cleaned, thus causing gums to swell and jawbones to gradually recede. Recession of the jawbone will weaken implants and eventually make it necessary for the implant to be removed. Patients are advised to visit their dentists at least twice a year to ensure the health of their teeth and implants. Dental implants can last for decades when given proper care.
If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at 847-658-3355.
Implant Care and Maintenance
There are only two ways an implant can lose attachment to the bone and fail once it has successfully fused: poor oral hygiene or excessive biting forces. Poor oral hygiene and/or a lack of regular cleanings can lead to a destructive bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Flossing and brushing your teeth on a daily basis, along with regular professional cleanings, can prevent this. Excessive biting forces can come from either a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, or an insufficient number of implants to handle the forces generated by your bite. You should receive the correct number of implants so this does not happen. And if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, a nightguard will be recommended to protect your implants. After all, implants are a long-term investment in your smile, your health and your well-being, so it's best to protect your investment.