Dental Implants

Research indicates that an estimated 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. There are multiple reasons someone might be missing a tooth. That empty space can affect eating, speaking, and appearance. Most people with missing teeth will want to replace them to avoid long-term issues. A common way to replace missing teeth is with dental implants.

Dental implants replace missing tooth roots. They are surgically inserted, then either permanent or removable replacement teeth are attached to the top of the implant. At Dr. Lance Ogata's office, we are able to help return your smile to its brightest with dental implant restorations that both look and feel like natural teeth. Keep reading to learn more about dental implants and how they work.

What Are Dental Implants?

Let's begin with some reasons you might be missing a tooth (or multiple teeth):

  • Accidental injury/playing sports
  • Gum disease (also known as periodontal disease)
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Smoking
  • Teeth grinding
  • Poor dental hygiene/cavities

It's important to remember that if your tooth gets knocked out and you still have it, get to your dentist as quickly as possible, as that tooth might be a candidate for replanting. (Either put the tooth back in place in your mouth and hold it there with gauze or place the tooth in milk for transport.)

In all other cases, you may be a candidate for a dental implant. A dental implant is a permanent way to replace lost teeth. The implant is surgically installed into the jawbone. After the site has healed, a customized dental crown gets attached to the exposed part of the implant. This combination will create a tooth that looks and behaves like the lost tooth.

The Implant Process

First, you will need to go through an evaluation to determine if you are a good fit for a dental implant. A complete dental exam—including x-rays, 3D images, and models of your teeth and jaw—will be done, along with a review of your medical history. The dentist will also study the condition of your jawbone and the area around the missing tooth or teeth.

If you're cleared for implants, Dr. Ogata will prepare a dental implant treatment plan based on your particular needs. Depending on the state of your jawbone, the next step may be bone grafting to create a solid foundation for the implant. The graft can be natural (from your own bone) or synthetic. It may take several months for the bone to fuse enough to support an implant, but it's worth it to have a good base in place.

Once the bone is healed, it's time for the implant to be placed by your dentist (or oral surgeon). The gum will be opened up to expose the bone, and a hole drilled in the bone for the implant to go in. The implant will go deep into the bone so it's good and sturdy. A temporary denture may be provided to fill in the space during healing. After the implant has been placed in the bone, it's time to wait for the jawbone to grow around and incorporate the implant. This is called osseointegration—a process that takes place over the course of several months.

Once the osseointegration process is done, the next step toward a complete restoration is the placement of the abutment. The abutment is what the dental crown will be attached to. It's possible that surgery will be needed to place the abutment, but if so, it's a minor procedure. Otherwise, your dentist (or an oral surgeon) will use a local anesthetic to put the abutment in.

In this procedure, your gum will be opened up to expose the implant. The abutment will then be attached to the implant that's now a part of your jawbone. As your gum heals, it will do so around but not over that abutment—that needs to remain accessible to take on your artificial tooth. The healing time for this procedure is about two weeks.

As soon as everything is all healed up, your dentist will need to take an impression of your mouth and the teeth surrounding the space where your implant sits. This impression will be used to create the crown that will act as your replacement tooth. This tooth may be removable, fixed, or a mix of both of those, depending on what you decide with your dentist. (A removable tooth may be easier to clean, while a fixed tooth will act just as your natural teeth do.) When the crown has been custom-made to fit on your implant, your dentist will install it. It may have taken a while, but your restoration is complete. Smile!

What to Expect During and After Treatment

After each stage of treatment, you may experience some discomfort. This is completely normal. You may have swelling, pain, or minor bleeding at or near the area of treatment. Your dentist (or oral surgeon) may be able to provide a prescription for medication to help with any pain. For a few days following each procedure, you may need to stick to a soft food diet to allow the surgical area to heal. Many stitches used in these types of surgery will dissolve over time. However, you may receive stitches which will require a manual removal.

The success rate of dental implants is high. You can maintain your new dental implants with healthy oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing at least twice a day. You may want to use a toothbrush designed to cater to implants—an interdental brush. These brushes help reach all the spaces around a dental crown, ensuring a better cleaning. Avoiding hard foods such as nuts, hard candy, or ice can help lengthen the life of your new crown. It will be important for you to continue with regular visits to your dentist. Your crown can be adjusted as needed if it becomes loose over time.

The Benefits of Dental Implants

There are a multitude of benefits to dental implants. These include:

  • Dental implants look and feel like your natural teeth and can improve your self-esteem.
  • Dentures can make it difficult to speak, while dental implants allow for normal speech.
  • Dental implants are comfortable and can make eating easier than it might be with dentures.
  • Because your surrounding teeth aren't involved in the implant, this improves your overall dental health.
  • Dental implants are durable and can last for many years.

Interested in Learning More about Dental Implants?

If you're missing teeth and considering dental implants, Dr. Lance Ogata can help you determine if they're right for you. Make an appointment today, and we can begin the process of seeing if we can install dental implants to restore your smile.