Living with missing teeth can be both physically and mentally stressful for Highlands Ranch patients. It can keep you from eating foods you enjoy and leave you feeling self-conscious about your smile. Plus, if left untreated, having missing teeth can negatively impact the health and stability of the remaining teeth. Fortunately, dental implants can be a long-term solution to fill in gaps and improve oral health and function. Plus, dental implants look and feel like natural teeth.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are replacement teeth that are affixed directly into the jaw, similar to the root of a natural tooth. Once the titanium implant or screw is placed, the jaw bone begins to fuse around it, holding it securely in place. This bonding, also known as osseointegration, is what gives dental implants stability and strength. After the implant is placed, a small post or abutment is attached to the top. This is what sticks out of the gum and holds the crown or replacement tooth. Crowns are molded to your mouth, so they fit perfectly and blend in with the remaining teeth.
The Benefits of Getting Dental Implants
One of the major benefits of dental implants is that, unlike traditional dentures or bridges, they do not need to be removed for cleaning. Once implants are placed, and crowns or implant-supported dentures are attached, they remain in place long-term. Here are a few other benefits to getting implants:
- Replacement teeth do not slip out of place because they are held firmly by dental implants.
- Because the implant is made of titanium, it can last for years to come.
- Dental implants can help prevent bone loss by stimulating the jaw bone.
- Replacing missing teeth with implants can keep remaining teeth from shifting in the mouth.
- Teeth supported by dental implants do not develop cavities.
- They can be used just like natural teeth to eat any type of food.
How We Diagnose and Determine Candidates for Dental Implant Surgery
Three primary factors that affect eligibility for dental implants are bone density, soft tissue health, and overall health. There must be an adequate amount of bone where the original tooth was extracted in order to securely place an implant. Some bone loss can be addressed through bone grafting. Soft tissue should be firm and free from infection. In addition, the patient should be in good overall health to reduce the risk of complications.
What Types of Prostheses are Used with Dental Implants?
There are several ways that dental implants can be used to replace missing teeth. The type of prostheses attached depends on how many teeth are missing and their location within the mouth. One or two missing teeth in a row in the back of the mouth may be treated differently than those in the front.
A crown replaces an individual tooth. One crown is placed on top of each dental implant.
Fixed Dental Bridge
A fixed dental bridge replaces two or three teeth at once; they are all joined together.
Complete Dental Prostheses
Complete dental prostheses replace an entire set of missing teeth and are similar to dentures.
Dental Implants – Advanced Overview
In some cases, dental implants can be placed immediately following a tooth extraction to minimize downtime and keep the healing and restoration process going. Take a closer look at the process.
What are the Costs Involved in Dental Implants?
The cost of dental implants can vary from person to person. If you are only getting a single implant and have good bone density and healthy soft tissue, the cost will be less than if you need a bone graft as well or are receiving multiple implants. Other factors that can affect cost are the complexity of the implant surgery, any tooth extractions you may need, and the type of prostheses being used to replace teeth, such as a crown, bridge, or denture.
Does dental insurance cover implants?
This depends on the type of insurance you have and the coverage it provides. If implants are necessary due to an accident or injury, insurance may pay for some or all of the procedure. If they are considered cosmetic, you will need to check with your provider.
Meet Dr. Hambleton – Board Certified Oral & Maxillofacial Surgeon
Dr. Hambleton is passionate about providing Highlands Ranch patients with exceptional oral health care and personalized attention. He underwent rigorous training to earn his board certification in oral and maxillofacial surgery and stays abreast of the latest advancements in dentoalveolar surgery, implantology, orthognathic surgery, trauma surgery, and anesthesiology.
The Dental Implant Process
The basic process for dental implants is relatively simple. Once the original tooth is extracted, a titanium screw is implanted into the jaw bone, the bone fuses to the implant, a crown or other dental prosthesis is placed, and the new teeth act just like natural teeth.
Understand What You are Looking For
Dental implants are a long-term, fixed solution to missing teeth. Once implants are inserted, and crowns or prostheses are placed, they remain affixed. They are not removed at the end of the day like dentures. Dental implants are stable enough to be used as natural teeth and will not slip out of place. They can replace individual teeth, multiple teeth, or your entire arch.
Before dental implant surgery, Dr. Hambleton will do a full evaluation of your teeth and gums to identify potential problems and determine the best course of action. He will take images and scans of your mouth in order to precisely plan where the implants will be inserted. He will also answer any questions you might have about surgery or recovery to ensure you have a full understanding of the process and what to expect.
The Surgical Phase
During surgery, a small slit is made in the gum to expose the bone. A drill is used to make a hole in the bone for the implant. Once it is in place, it will begin fusing together with bone over the next three or four months. A stitch or two may be used to close the gum around it, and a temporary crown may be placed so there is not a gap between the teeth.
The Placement of the Tooth Prosthetic
Once the implant and bone have fused together, your dental implant will be strong enough to hold a permanent replacement tooth or dental prosthesis. Your dentist or prosthodontist will have already molded your prosthetic prior to surgery so that it is ready to go once the implant has healed. The oral surgeon will attach the prosthetic to the posts on your implants to hold it securely in place.
Regular checkups are needed throughout the recovery process to check the progress of bone fusion and catch potential signs of infection or other issues. Once the implant and crown or prosthesis have been placed, follow-up appointments can ensure that your new teeth are functioning properly and in good health. You will want to continue brushing and flossing as you would with your natural teeth to keep your teeth and gums healthy.
How Do I Know if Dental Implants are Right for Me?
With advances in dental technology and procedures, many people are candidates for dental implants. If you are serious about wanting a long-term solution to missing teeth, do not want limitations on the types of food you can eat, and can be patient during the recovery process while the bone and implant fuse, dental implants may be a good option for you. Talk to an experienced oral surgeon to learn more based on your individual situation.
Are Dental Implants Safe?
As with any surgery, there are some risks involved with dental implants, but they are often minor and treatable. Your oral surgeon will review any potential risks or complications with you and how they will be addressed. In general, dental implants are relatively safe, and the titanium used is the same bio-compatible material used in joint replacements. It does not deteriorate over time or promote infection. The average success rate of dental implants is 98%.
Is Dental Implant Surgery Painful?
Many patients find that local anesthetic is enough to minimize any pain and keep them comfortable. You do not have nerves in your jawbone, but you may feel a bit of pressure from the drill. The anesthetic will numb your gum in the area of the surgery. If you are still nervous, your oral surgeon may offer general anesthesia instead so you are fully sedated during the procedure. Over-the-counter pain relievers are typically strong enough to manage any discomfort after surgery.
Dental Implants vs. Dentures – Which is Better?
When deciding between dental implants and dentures, it is a matter of personal preference. Dentures can be held in place more securely with dental implants, so you do not have to worry about using adhesives or having them shift while you talk or eat. Plus, since dental implants are implanted into the jaw bone, this helps to reduce the risk of bone loss that is common with traditional dentures since they do not provide bone stimulation as implants do.
Recovery from Dental Implant Surgery
While the actual surgery to place dental implants can take between one and three hours, the full healing process can take several weeks.
How Long Does It Take to Heal After Getting Dental Implants?
Once the dental implant has been placed in the jawbone, it typically takes about three months for the bone to fuse and the implant to be held firmly in place. A temporary crown will be placed on the implant so that the gums can begin reforming around it in preparation for the permanent replacement tooth.
How Long After Dental Implants Can I Eat Normally?
While the implant and bone fuse together, you will be limited to only soft foods. The temporary crown is more for aesthetics than function. Once the permanent crown or dental prosthesis is placed in about three months, you can return to eating normally.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
The 10-year survival rate for dental implants is 98%. Some patients have their implants last far longer. It depends on how well they have fused, how well you care for the implants, and how much strain you place on them. Just like natural teeth, crowns can crack or become damaged, so they may need to be replaced.
Colorado’s Premier Oral Surgeon for Dental Implant Surgery
Dr. Hambleton is highly experienced in placing dental implants and restoring the smiles of patients throughout Highlands Ranch and the Denver area. Contact Highlands Ranch Oral & Facial Surgery today to schedule a consultation and determine if dental implants are the right solution for you.