Dental implant therapy is a periodontal treatment option commonly used to replace a missing, damaged, or broken tooth or multiple teeth, depending on the patient’s needs. This restorative solution includes the placement of an artificial root, or the dental implant, as well as a prosthetic tooth designed to match surrounding teeth.
There are many reasons a patient may benefit from dental implant therapy. However, one of the primary reasons patients choose dental implant surgery is to replace a missing tooth or teeth. In doing so, patients can often avoid issues commonly associated with missing teeth, like shifting teeth, jawbone deterioration, or the appearance of a “sunken” face.
Other common reasons your periodontist may recommend dental implant therapy include:
- Treat a severely infected, damaged, or decayed tooth that must be removed and replaced
- Provide a long-term alternative to loose-fitting partials or dentures
- Prevent jaw regression and a resulting “sunken face” appearance after wearing dentures.
- Provide relief to patients who have issues chewing their food due to missing or severely damaged teeth
- Eliminate the daily care requirements of dentures, including cleaning efforts and dealing with adhesives
- Improve speech in instances where a missing tooth or a bridge, dentures, or other dental device prevents patients from speaking properly
- Restore a patient’s smile and self-confidence
The dental implant process begins with a visit to the periodontist. During your initial visit or consultation, the doctor will review your medical history, take a specialized dental CT Scan (CBCT) or other required X-rays, identify the issue(s), and discuss your best treatment plan option(s). Every mouth is different, so dental implant therapy is customized and can range from a single-phase straightforward process completed in one day to a multi-phase complex process that can take several months or more.
If you’re undergoing dental implant therapy to address a damaged, infected, or broken tooth, the first step is to remove the tooth. Your periodontist will extract the tooth and determine the most ideal time is for your implant to be placed and how to best utilize bone or gum grafting in your case.
Many patients require bone or gum grafting which is used to reinforce thin or damaged jaw structure required to support the implant. The source of these materials used can be the patient, another human source, or a synthetic material.
Several options exist for implant placement: 1) immediately at the time of tooth extraction, 2) delayed after a few months of healing from tooth extraction, 3) staged after several months of healing from tooth extraction/bone grafting. Bone grafting is required in most these options and ideal utilization will be discussed for your situation.
During this phase, a periodontal professional will administer local anesthetic (Novocaine) and prepare your mouth for the procedure.
Once prepared, your doctor will create an incision in the gum, exposing the underlying jawbone. Then they will create a cylindrical shaped opening and insert the post or screw, which will act as the artificial root for the crown (prosthetic tooth), and stitches to stabilize the gum. When the procedure is complete, you’ll return home to heal until your follow up appointment to remove your stitches. It’s important to note that basic implant healing (integration) typically takes 2-4 months, as the bone surrounding the implant will grow and adhere to the dental implant surface.
After the implant is placed, a healing cap (or spacer) can be placed onto the implant to aid in easier gum healing, a temporary crown can be attached directly to the implant, or a removable partial denture tooth (flipper) can be utilized until the entire process is complete. Patients can feel confident that they will never be allowed to leave the office without a temporary tooth for cosmetic purposes.
Once the implant healing period is complete, the implant will be tested (revere torque test) by your periodontist prior to you returning to your general or restorative doctor.
This part of the dental implant is usually planned and completed by your general or restorative doctor. In some cases, your doctor may choose to place an abutment, or a metal fixture which is used to connect your new crown (prosthetic) to your dental implant. The new crown is adhered to the abutment via a dental cement. In other cases, your doctor may choose to create a “screw-retained” crown. This type of crown also requires an abutment, however the abutment and crown are made as one piece and a screw is utilized to fix the entire crown in place. Regardless of type, crowns are always custom made to match your surrounding teeth and to create a seamless look and a smile that is truly your own.
There are several alternatives to dental implants. Understanding your options and discussing them with your periodontist can help you determine which is right for you. Here are a few common dental implant alternatives:
A bridge is 3 or more artificial teeth (crowns) fused together which are affixed to the surrounding teeth, thus “bridging” the gap between two or more teeth. In general, a bridge requires significant “natural tooth reduction” or preparation, requires less treatment time, and is similar in cost to an implant. Bridges typically last about 5 to 7 years before they need to be replaced as opposed to dental implants, which generally last 20 years or longer. It’s also important to note that a bridge does not address the underlying jawbone, which may be vulnerable to degradation over time, causing further periodontal issues.
A partial or complete denture is a removable tooth or set of teeth used to cover gaps between your existing teeth or replace all of the teeth in one or both jaws. Partial dentures are used when a patient maintains some of their natural teeth and are supported by these remaining teeth. Complete dentures are used when all teeth are missing and are supported by the remaining jawbone and gum tissue. Dentures are a less costly than dental implants. However, partial dentures may damage the teeth that provide support and complete dentures allow continued loss of jaw bone and facial structure. Dentures in general require ongoing maintenance and replacement over time.
There are several short and long-term effects of dental implants, many of which can improve not only your smile but your oral health.
Here are some of the common effects of dental implants:
- Makes oral care easier. Since dental implants are similar to natural teeth, oral hygiene practices are often easier than those required by dentures. A dental implant also reduces unnecessary gaps in teeth, which can collect bacteria and increase the risk of periodontal disease.
- Reduces jaw deterioration. Once a dental implant is placed in the jaw, the surrounding bone will adhere to it. This mitigates the risk of jaw deterioration that can lead to further oral health problems
- Reduces tooth shifting. With a sturdy, long-term dental implant, surrounding teeth are less likely to shift, thus preventing other potential periodontal issues.
- Prevents a “sunken” or sagging facial appearance. Missing teeth can promote jaw deterioration that, over time, can lead to sagging or sinking under the nose and around the mouth. By choosing dental implant therapy, you can solidify your jaw and gum structure and prevent unwanted changes to your facial features
If you’re missing one or more teeth or have damaged or broken teeth, it’s a good idea to see a periodontist as soon as possible. Periodontists are expertly and formally trained to identify, correct, and prevent issues with your teeth, gums, jawbone, and surrounding soft tissue.
By visiting a periodontist as soon as possible, you can help prevent further damage and improve your overall oral health. Unfortunately, waiting to see a periodontist can lead to more complications and make it harder to restore your comfort, confidence, and smile.
Dr. Bonacci and his team of experts can help you find the path to oral wellness. Contact them today to book your initial consultation and start working towards the smile you deserve. Call Dr. Bonacci to set up a consultation.