Dental implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can smile, chew, and speak with confidence.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a special titanium post which is used to replace the root portion of a missing tooth. Once placed, the surrounding bone integrates with the surface of the implant and provides a stable foundation for attachment of a custom abutment and crown, as seen in the following graphic.
Implants help preserve facial structure, preventing bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.
Are There Other Options?
Other options include fixed bridges and removable partial dentures. Fixed bridges require cutting down the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth site and then cementing a multiple-unit restoration across the area. Recurrent decay, gum disease, and other factors often doom fixed bridges to earlier failure than implant restorations. Cutting down a tooth weaken its structure and increases the likelihood of fracture, which often results in both the fractured tooth AND the bridge being removed.
Before a diagnosis and treatment plan can be rendered, Dr. Smith, Dr. Lustig, Dr. Banker and Dr. Neeley will start by gathering information on your past medical and surgical history, medications, allergies, and social history. If available, the x-rays sent by your dentist will be reviewed. In many cases, a cone-beam CT scan will be taken in our office, which allows us to look at your bone structure in 3D, as opposed to the traditional 2D films.
A comprehensive examination will be performed, including evaluation of hard and soft tissue quality, tooth and bite stability, coexisting infection or pathology, etc. After all this information is gathered and considered, the potential treatment options will be discussed. During this discussion, your surgeon will work with you to tailor a treatment plan to your individual wants, goals, needs, and budget. For your comfort, various anesthetic options are available, including local anesthetic (numbing medicine), oral sedation, and/or intravenous sedation.
Once a treatment plan is chosen, the pertinent details are reviewed, consents are signed, pre-operative instructions are given, financial/insurance estimates are determined, and a surgery date is chosen.
The Day of Surgery
If you will be having intravenous anesthesia, it is important to have nothing to eat or drink for 8 hours prior to surgery. With any form of sedation (pills or IV), you must have a responsible adult drive you to and from your appointment. For females, it is important that you not be pregnant.
The surgical procedure begins with removal of the non-restorable tooth, if present. It is important that the bone surrounding the tooth be preserved to help provide stability for the implant at the time of placement. In the large majority of cases, a tooth can be removed and an implant placed during the same visit. After the implant is placed, a titanium “healing abutment” will be placed onto the implant. The healing abutment will protrude slightly above the gum and allow the tissue to heal properly.
In some cases, it is possible to place a temporary crown on the implant at the time of surgery so that a removable flipper or temporary treatment partial is unnecessary. It is important that the temporary tooth does not touch any of the teeth in the other jaw, so it often looks slightly shorter than the adjacent teeth. The final restoration, fabricated after healing, will be made to match the surrounding teeth as closely as possible.
Drs. Smith, Lustig, Banker and Neeley will typically give you three to four prescriptions after your procedure, depending on your medical history. Most often, you will be given an antibiotic, a narcotic pain medication, a prescription-strength ibuprofen, and an antibacterial mouth rinse. Dosing instructions will be given verbally prior to discharge from our office and in writing when the prescriptions are filled at the pharmacy. Due to our minimally-invasive surgical technique, patients have minimal pain after an implant procedure. In almost all cases, patients report less pain with an extraction AND immediate implant as compared to an extraction alone.
During the first week, you will want to restrict your diet to soft foods, and if possible, take smaller bites to help isolate food to the opposite side of the oral cavity. If sutures are present, the will dissolve within five to seven days, but are only needed for approximately the first 24 hours. Oral hygiene can be performed gently in the normal fashion with a soft toothbrush. Avoid flossing in the surgical area during the first week.
After the first week, the tissue will have stabilized around the healing abutment. At that time, a regular diet can be resumed, with attention to avoid chewing any hard foods such as chips, ice, or nuts directly on the implant. Traumatizing the implant with excessive chewing can disrupt the integration of the bone with the implant surface and result in loss of the implant. If sutures are not yet dissolved, gentle brushing will typically remove them with minimal discomfort. Gentle brushing and flossing in the surgical area can be resumed at this time.
During the healing months, it is important to keep the titanium healing abutment clean and shiny. Brush and floss around the healing abutment just as if it were a tooth to prevent plaque and calculus accumulation and keep the surrounding tissues healthy.
When the Implant is Healed
At ArkLaTex Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery, we are excited to offer the iTero Digital Impression System in our office. We were the first practice in northern Louisiana to offer this state-of-the-art digital 3D technology to our implant patients. Other practices have eventually followed in our footsteps, but we are committed to staying on the cusp of innovation (and ahead of the pack) in our field.
Using a series of snapshots from different angles, your teeth, implant(s), and bite will be reconstructed into a digital 3D model. This digital model is far more accurate than the traditional impression technique and avoids the unpleasant and claustrophobic experience of having a mouthful of “goop.” Using the digital model, a precision abutment and crown will be created to effectively replace the missing tooth. Once completed, your dentist will attach the abutment and tooth to your implant, and you are free to resume normal chewing. The increased accuracy translates into less time spent in your dentist’s chair when you receive your tooth.
Why Dental Implants?
The answer is clear. Once you learn about dental implants, the benefits speak for themselves. When you lose a tooth or teeth, whether its a new problem or something you have lived with for years, chances are you have never become fully accustomed to losing such a vital part of yourself. You now have the solution.
Dental implants can be your doorway to renewed self-confidence and peace of mind.
Clinical photos and radiographic images on this site are the property of ArkLaTex Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery. Implant graphics courtesy of Zimmer Biomet.
- Priest, GF, Priest, JE. The Economics of Implants For Single Missing Teeth. Dental Economics 2004;94(5):130-138.
- Blackwell, R, Lowe, R, Morris, G, Priest, G. Implant Economics. A Supplement to Dental Practice Report, September 2004.