Dental implants are perhaps the greatest advancement in modern dentistry and they are truly changing the way people live. Dental implants are designed to provide a stable, secure foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like your natural teeth. With dental implants, a person who has lost teeth can regain the ability to eat all of their favorite foods and smile with confidence knowing that their teeth look natural and their facial contours are preserved. Our goals at Loudoun Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery are to maximize the aesthetics of the final implant restoration and minimize any inconvenience to our patients by making the dental implant procedure efficient and comfortable.
In many cases, when you lose a tooth, it is best for your overall oral health to have the missing tooth replaced. When they are not replaced, there can be shifting of the teeth in the area, which can affect your “bite,” your ability to speak and chew and the appearance of your smile. A poor bite can also cause headaches and muscle pain in your jaws. The good news is that, most of the time, replacing a missing tooth is not an emergency that needs to be taken care of immediately. You do have some time to make an informed decision and consider what tooth replacement option is best for you.
What is a Dental Implant?
The best way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a natural tooth. A natural tooth is comprised of a root and a crown. The visible part of the tooth that you eat with is called the crown. Beneath the crown is the root, which anchors the tooth to the jawbone through the gum tissue. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root of the tooth and the crown of the tooth. To replace a tooth, we first have to replace the tooth root to give a foundation for the crown. A dental implant is a surgically placed device that effectively replaces the missing tooth root. Implants are made of specially-treated titanium; in fact, it is the same material used for artificial knee and hip joints. Titanium is well-accepted by the human body and encourages bone growth directly against the implant surface (a process called osseointegration). Essentially, a dental implant is a new root for your tooth. This titanium root is fitted into a socket that our oral surgeons will create in your jaw, replacing the lost root of your missing natural tooth. Your general or family dentist will then make a dental crown to replace the aesthetic and functional portion of the tooth.
What are my Tooth Replacement Options?
There are several treatment options available to those who want to replace missing teeth:
- A “flipper” is a removable tooth made of plastic that is inexpensive but also fragile and temporary.
- A cast partial denture is also removable but is precision cast in metal for a longer life. Wire clasps hook to remaining teeth and hold a cast partial denture in place.
- A fixed bridge is cemented into place using dental crowns or “caps” on the teeth located next to the open space for support. Crown placement usually requires preparing a toothy by removing or reducing the outer layer of the tooth. In some cases, a “Maryland” bridge (a fixed bridge that does not require crowns) is cemented onto the back of the teeth next to the missing tooth space so that minimal tooth structure is disturbed.
- Full dentures or “plates” are often the solution for those who have lost all their teeth in the upper and/or lower jaw. The success of a full denture largely depends on the size and shape of the individual’s jaw, his or her oral hygiene habits, and his or her adaptability. While some people adapt well to full dentures, others do not. Dental implants are often used to help stabilize a full denture especially in the lower jaw.
- Dental implants can provide support for the replacement of one or all of an individual’s teeth. After many years of research and clinical trials, implants are now considered the standard of care to replace missing teeth. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be cemented, screw-retained, or removable. They are also an attractive, stable, and comfortable solution for almost any patient.
Who is a Candidate for Dental Implants?
A candidate is potentially anyone who is missing one or more teeth and/or anyone who is unhappy with their current dentures. Age is not necessarily a factor that affects success, although radiation therapy to the area and poorly-controlled diseases, such as diabetes, can hinder the success of the implant. Dental X-rays and a special CT scan done in our office will need be taken in order for our doctors to evaluate your jawbone and determine if you are a candidate for implants. This special X-ray allows us to get a three dimensional view which is anatomically accurate and allows us to measure the space available for an implant exactly without relying on the guesswork that is unavoidable with traditional dental X-rays.
Dental implants come in many sizes and shapes and even have different types of surfaces. The actual dental implant selection will depend on several factors related to your specific needs, and the most appropriate dental implant(s) will be used. Once a dental implant has been placed into the jaw, recent advances in dental implant technology have reduced the healing time to between two to four months, in most cases. When the initial phase of healing is completed, a support post (abutment) will be placed into the dental implant itself.
In some instances, this second step may be incorporated into the first step and the abutment may be placed at the time of the initial implant placement. A new crown will then be created and attached to the implant in the appropriate amount of time. If all of your natural teeth are missing, a variety of treatments are available to support your replacement teeth, including immediate function with newly placed implants (teeth in a day).
Teeth in a Day
When dental disease and poor function make it necessary to remove all of your remaining teeth in either your upper or lower jaw, it is no longer necessary to wear uncomfortable removable dentures or “plates”. In many cases we are able to remove the remaining teeth and place four to six implants which can be used to support and retain replacement teeth on the same day. This provides the patient with a stable, non-removable prosthesis and eliminates the difficulties and inconveniences of conventional dentures.
We work along with your restorative dentist and a dental lab technician to provide an outcome which can truly be life-changing.
Dental Implant Facts
- Dental implants have a 98% success rate.
- Are the most advanced tooth replacement system ever developed.
- Can help adults of any age. Teenagers need to wait until they are finished growing.
- Help preserve the jawbone to prevent the appearance of premature aging.
- Look and function like natural teeth.
- Never require root canals.
- Are placed in the surgeon’s office in a minimally invasive manner.
- Improve comfort, speech, and appearance.
- Allow you to eat the foods you love as well as speak, smile, and laugh with confidence.
- Give patients a third set of teeth that are natural-looking and very long-lasting.
- Can provide great stability for a lower denture.
- Provide a conservative treatment option- adjacent teeth are left untouched.
- Never develop decay.
- Can provide immediate stability and function for complete dentures using the “teeth in a day” technique.
How are Dental Implants Placed?
The surgical procedure for dental implant placement is predictable and comfortable at Loudoun Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery. Most of our implant patients tell us the implant procedure is easier than even a routine tooth extraction. Usually, the placement procedure will take about 30-45 minutes for one implant and somewhat longer for multiple implants depending on the number to be placed. The implant placement process consists of the following:
- As discussed in your consultation, you will be given prescriptions for any necessary medication prior to the surgery. You may be offered nitrous oxide sedation (“laughing gas”) or IV sedation. Then a local anesthetic will be administered in order to numb the areas where the implant(s) will be placed.
- Once you are comfortable, a small incision is made into the gum tissue. This incision will reveal the bone into which the implant will be placed.
- Using special instruments and advanced technology, a socket is carefully created so as to avoid damaging the bone.
- The titanium implant is carefully inserted into the socket.
- If necessary, sutures will be used to close the incision.
After the dental implant is placed, the surgical area will need to heal for two to four months in most cases. The length of healing time will depend on a variety of factors. Follow-up appointments at Loudoun Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (one to two visits) are usually required to ensure that your mouth is healing properly. A final exam will be done after the appropriate amount of time to check implant stability and to determine if you are ready for the restorative phase of your dental implant treatment.
The restorative dental work required to complete your dental implant treatment is complex. It is, however, considered much more comfortable and more pleasant than traditional dental care. We have found that most of the work can even be comfortably performed without using local anesthesia.
The number of appointments and the amount of time required for each appointment is different for each dental implant patient. Just as no two people are exactly the same; no two cases are exactly the same. Regardless of the number of teeth replaced, our work will be completed with great precision and attention to detail for your benefit.