If you lose or break a tooth, a dental implant
may be the best option for restoring
your smile. Learn more about dental implants
and whether they are right for you.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a post, usually made
of titanium, which serves as a substitute
for a natural tooth’s root. The implant is
placed in the jawbone so that it may fuse
with the natural bone to become a sturdy
foundation for a replacement tooth.
Implants can be used to replace individual
teeth or to support a bridge or denture
containing multiple teeth.
Who can receive implants?
Dental implants can be provided to most
patients who are missing teeth due to
decay, disease, injury, or other medical
conditions. You also may be a candidate
for a dental implant if you can’t wear
dentures or find them uncomfortable,
or if you don’t want to sacrifice
existing tooth structure to support a
Since surgery is required, implant
patients must be in good general health,
with healthy gums and adequate bone
structure. If an implant site lacks the adequate
structure, a dentist may be able to
perform procedures to improve it.
Implants are not for everyone, however.
Chronic conditions like bruxism, diabetes,
or leukemia may interfere with healing
after implant surgery, so the success rate
decreases for patients with these conditions.
This also is the case for patients
taking bisphosphonates for osteoporosis.
Additionally, those who drink alcohol or
use tobacco may not be good candidates
for implants. Your dentist will take into
consideration your medical and dental
history when deciding if implants are
right for you.
How does implant placement
First, your dentist will perform surgery to
place the implant in the jaw. Next, the
surrounding bone will heal via a process
called osseointegration; the bone grows
around the implant to hold it firmly in
place. Finally, your dentist will complete
the process by placing on the post an
artificial tooth, or crown, that resembles
your natural teeth.
How long does implant placement
Once the implant placement surgery is
completed—usually in an hour or two—
the healing process begins, and that can
take as long as six months. Additionally,
the fitting of the permanent replacement
tooth is usually accomplished in one to
three weeks. Your dentist may provide
you with a temporary replacement to
help you eat and speak normally until
the permanent replacement is ready. If
your bone structure is strong enough,
however, your dentist may be able to
place the implant and replacement tooth
in one visit.
What can I expect after the
Most patients will adjust to implants immediately.
Some people may feel slight
discomfort or notice differences in their
chewing or speech, but these symptoms
are usually temporary.
How do I care for my implant?
Although an implant’s success rate depends
on its purpose and location in the
mouth—as well as the patient’s overall
health—a major reason some implants fail
is poor hygiene. It’s important to brush
implants at least twice a day, as well as
to floss in between them. Additionally, as
many as four dental cleanings per year
may be necessary to maintain gum health.
Your dentist will give you specific instructions
on caring for your implants.
Talk to your general dentist to find out
whether dental implants are right for you.