Dental implants are changing the way your dentist can provide you with tooth replacement and function. They are designed to provide a foundation for prosthetic teeth which look, feel and function like natural teeth.
The implants themselves are small titanium screws which are surgically placed into the jawbone where the teeth are missing. These metal anchors are below the surface of the gum tissues and act as root substitutes. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. After appropriate healing, small extensions called abutments are then attached to the implant and protrude through the gums. These abutments serve as the connectors for the crowns or artificial teeth. Typically the three phases for the placement of dental implants for tooth replacement are the Surgical Procedure, Abutment Placement and Crown or Restoration.
The Surgical Procedure
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within your jawbone. For the first three to six months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually bonding with the jawbone. You should be able to wear temporary dentures or bridges and eat a routine diet during this time.
After the implant has bonded to the jawbone, the second phase begins. The doctor will uncover the implants and attach healing abutments which are temporary extensions through the gingival tissues. In the final phase the healing abutments are replaced by a "prosthetic" abutment that will support the crowns or "teeth". When the artificial teeth are placed, these posts will not be seen. The entire process may take three to eight months. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life during this reconstructive phase. The results are long lasting and stable.
Over time, the jawbone associated with missing teeth is reabsorbed. This often leaves a condition in which there is poor quality and quantity of bone suitable for denture use or placement of dental implants. Some patients are not candidates for dental implants without first having bone graft procedures to increase the dimensions and quality of the bone.
Several bone graft procedures can be performed to increase bone available for prosthetic tooth replacement. All grafts will have a biologic healing period for maturation before implants or prosthetic rehabilitation can be completed.