A missing tooth can be embarrassing and stop you from fully smiling or feel the need to cover your mouth with your hand when you laugh. This could be your sign to consider a smile makeover—a combination of dental enhancements and restoration, with the process starting with a dental implant procedure.
Restoring your missing tooth with a dental implant may seem like an intense process than getting removable partials or dentures. But the whole point of a smile makeover is the ability to freely smile whenever you want, without the worry or extra step of placing a prosthetic for the gaps in your smile.
We explain the step-by-step process for a dental implant procedure and how it could be a better option over partials or dentures for your complete smile makeover.
A dental implant resembles a natural-looking tooth designed with an artificial tooth root (in the form of a screw) that is surgically embedded into the jawbone. Over the course of several months, the implant post fuses into the natural bone tissue and becomes part of the jawbone.
Despite all the advancements in dentistry, millions of people experience losing their teeth permanently. They can lose their teeth from oral infections, lack of proper dental care or maintenance, or severe decay.
Typically, dentures or partials have been the common solution for missing teeth. But these prosthetic dental options can come with various annoyances like ill-fitting, dealing with oral adhesives, or the possibility of losing them because it's removable.
Dental implants have become a better and more viable solution for a missing tooth, with the prosthetic forming into the jawbone and permanently fitting next to other teeth. With dental implants, the upkeep and care will follow the same normal oral routine as the rest of your regular and natural teeth. You no longer have to worry about losing dentures or the possibility of decay. The material used for a dental implant can't decay as regular teeth can.
A dental implant process involves a series of different stages:
The dental implant process begins with a comprehensive dental examination involving x-ray pictures, 3-d images, and models made of your teeth and jaw.
It is determined early in the process, from the images of the x-ray, if your jawbone is sufficient or thick enough to withstand and hold a dental implant. If there isn't enough bone for the implant to take hold, a jawbone graft may be required.
A jawbone graft involves taking a piece of bone from another part of the jaw or the body and transplanting it into the jaw. Depending on the size of the bone replacement, a jawbone graft could be done simultaneously as a dental implant or may require a separate surgery.
Before the dental implant is placed, any damaged tooth will be removed. The dental implant surgery will require anesthesia or sedation to numb the treatment area and to help control any pain and discomfort during the procedure. The oral surgeon will then remove the tooth to prepare for the new implant to be inserted.
The surgeon will cut open the gums to drill a hole in the jawbone where the titanium screw is placed. The implant serves as an artificial root for the new tooth, but the artificial tooth itself isn't placed at this point. A temporary cap is placed over the hole. For aesthetic purposes, a temporary denture is placed until the permanent tooth can be attached to the implant, only after the implant forms into the jawbone.
As the jawbone heals, it will fuse with the dental implant. This process is called osseointegration, forming the permanent bond between the implant and jawbone. The process can take two to six months and will vary from patient to patient.
A metal extender called an abutment is typically added to the implant; it serves as a connector to the crown. The abutment is then tightened into place so it will not move around while the patient is chewing when eating. This may be done during the initial procedure or during a second minor procedure under a local anesthetic.
Once healing is complete from the surgeries, the dentist will take the impression of the tooth or teeth that were created early on and fit them into the treated area by permanently cementing or screwing onto the abutment.
With any oral surgery, you will encounter some post-procedure symptoms:
Pain medications and antibiotics may be prescribed, and a soft food diet is recommended for the first initial days after the surgery. Typically, the dentist will use dissolvable stitches for the closure of the gums, but if they didn't use dissolvable threads- a follow-up appointment is needed to remove the stitches.
Anyone in relatively good health and who maintains an oral health routine is a good candidate for a dental implant. People who smoke heavily or suffer from chronic disorders, such as diabetes or heart disease, will need to consult with a dentist before considering a dental implant.
A dental implant is a viable option to restore tooth loss without the worry or burden of the care and upkeep of removable prosthetics. Having a complete set of teeth can improve the functionality of eating and chewing- covering the most basic needs of a human being. And can also help a person feel more confident and free to smile without the worry of embarrassing gaps.
To find a board certified-dentist or periodontist in your local area, try using our “Find a Doctor” navigation tool. They will guide you through the dental implant process and help you achieve your smile makeover goals.