What is a dental implant and why do I need one?

People frequently visit the dentist with a tooth that is beyond repair and needs to be extracted. The tooth may be fractured badly, or could require extensive, expensive treatment that may end up with a questionable result. Once it has been established that the patient wants the tooth extracted, there are usually a few treatment choices, including: 1. a dental implant; 2. a bridge (crowns connecting three or more teeth to replace a missing tooth); 3. a removable partial denture (an appliance that can be removed by the patient that replaces one or more teeth); or 4. live with the space.

For patients who don’t want a removable denture, the choice comes down to a bridge or an implant. A bridge requires the preparation of teeth on either side of the space for crowns. A bridge can be beneficial if the tooth on either side of the space already has a large filling and is in need of a crown. If the teeth next to the space have no fillings or small fillings, many patients and dentists prefer to do an implant.

A dental implant is a titanium screw that is placed in the jaw bone which supports a crown. Basically, the implant replaces the root of the tooth and then a crown is placed on top of the implant. The implant/implant crown are fixed in the patients jaw and look and function just like a natural tooth. An implant is a nice option because it requires no preparation of adjacent teeth and the implant can remain independent of other teeth. Implants can also be placed in spots where bridges will not work, and are incapable of getting a cavity. An implant can be placed in the jaw as long as the bone is thick enough and anatomical structures are not interfering. Implants can be used to replace single teeth or several teeth (bridges, implant supported dentures).

Dental implant surgery is most often done as an in-office procedure under local anesthetic. The traditional sequence of an implant is: extract (pull) the tooth, bone graft the area if necessary, wait for healing, place the implant in jaw, wait for the bone to heal around the implant, take impressions place the abutment, and place the implant crown. Note that this implant sequence can vary based on a variety of patient factors including medical history, quality of bone, location of implant and practitioner performing the procedures.

More questions? We’d be happy to address them during your next visit to the office.


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