What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots used as support for a restoration to replace a missing tooth or teeth, helping to halt or prevent jaw bone loss. The dental implant procedure is categorized as prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry, but it is also considered to be a form of cosmetic dentistry.
People who have lost teeth might feel too self-conscious to smile or talk. Additionally, biting irregularities caused by tooth loss can have a negative impact on eating habits, leading to secondary health problems such as malnutrition.
By replacing missing teeth with an artificial root structure, dental implants provide you with the strength and stability required to eat all the foods you need and love, without struggling to chew. Additionally, dental implants will stimulate and maintain your jaw bone, which prevents bone loss and helps to maintain your facial features.
Today’s dental implant restorations are virtually indistinguishable from other teeth. This appearance is aided in part by the structural and functional connection between the dental implant and the living bone.
Teeth are lost for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Tooth Decay
- Root Canal Failure
- Gum Disease (Periodontitis)
- Trauma to the Mouth (Tooth Injury)
- Excessive Wear and Tear
- Congenital (Existing from Birth) Defects
Dental Implants: Consultation, Placement, and Recovery
To determine if implants are right for you, a consultation with Dr. Khodai is needed. During this appointment, she will thoroughly examine your teeth, gums, and evaluate your bone density and quantity. This process may involve X-Rays to ensure there is sufficient bone structure for the placement of the implant(s), as well as to determine just where the implant needs to be placed.
Based on the existing condition of your oral tissue, oral hygiene and personal habits, and commitment to follow aftercare instructions, Dr. Khodai will advise you of the most appropriate dental implant treatment plan. Some patients with insufficient bone or gum tissue require bone or soft tissue grafts and/or the use of small diameter implants (also known as mini implants).
Depending on your unique situation, Dr. Khodai will advise you of how long the entire treatment process will take, how many appointments will be necessary, and what you can expect after each procedure. During your consultation, options for local anesthesia (to numb the affected and surrounding areas) and sedation dentistry, if necessary, also will be discussed.
The Dental Implant Procedure
Most implants are typically placed in a single sitting but will require a period of osseointegration.
Osseointegration is a process by which the dental implant anchors to the jaw bone. Osseointegrated implants are the most successful type of dental implant, and for that reason also the commonly used. An osseointegrated implant can take anywhere from three to six months to fully anchor and heal, at which point Dr. Khodai will complete the procedure by placing a crown restoration. If for some reason osseointegration does not occur, the implant will fail.
Dental implantation, which is performed to replace missing teeth, can be done any time after adolescence or when bone growth is complete. However, certain medical conditions such as active diabetes, cancer, or periodontal disease, may require additional treatment before the implant procedure can be performed.
Preparing the Jaw for Implantation
A dental implant is commonly composed of a titanium material screw and a crown. A small-diameter hole (pilot hole) is drilled at edentulous (the spot where there is no tooth) jaw sites in order to guide the titanium screw that will hold the dental implant in place. To avoid damaging vital jaw and facial structures such as the inferior alveolar nerve in the mandible (lower jaw), a dentist must use great skill and expertise when boring the pilot hole and sizing the jaw bone. In many instances dentists will use surgical guides created based on X-Rays or CT Scans when placing the dental implants.
Placement of the Implant
After the initial pilot hole has been drilled in the proper location, it is slowly widened to allow placement of the implant screw. Once in place, surrounding gum tissue is secured over the implant and a protective cover screw is placed to allow the site to heal and osseointegration to occur. After a period of up to six months of healing, Dr. Khodai will uncover the implant and attach an abutment (which holds the crown or tooth-like replacement) to the implant. In certain scenarios the abutment may be attached during the initial procedure. When the abutment is in place, Dr. Khodai then creates a temporary crown. The temporary crown serves as a template around which the gum grows and shapes itself in a natural way. The process is completed when the temporary crown is replaced with a permanent crown.
Dental Implants Recovery Process
The recovery from a Dental Implant depends on a number of factors, one of which includes the various procedures required to complete your unique treatment. However, it is generally recognized that once an implant has been placed, maintaining diligent oral hygiene habits is required to ensure the proper fusing of the implant and bone structure. If cared for properly, an implant can remain in place for more than 40 years.
After the initial procedure, discomfort should be minimal. Minor swelling of your gums and face may occur, as well as minor bleeding and bruising of the implant site. Prescription pain medications may be prescribed to relieve any pain or discomfort you feel after the procedure.
Healing from the procedure to place the dental implant(s) may take up to six months, and the fitting and seating of the crown(s) can take up to two months. Again, this timeframe depends on individual cases and treatments. Follow-up appointments with Dr. Khodai are essential for monitoring your progress.
Implant Surgery Follow-up and Aftercare
For five to seven days after surgery, your diet should be restricted to soft foods. If stitches are present, they may need to be removed by your dentist; however, self-dissolving stitches that do not require removal are typically used.
If provisional restorations were placed along with the dental implant, it is important to clean them as you would your natural teeth to ensure the best possible healing and fusing of the implant.
Failure to brush and floss is a leading cause of implant failure, and infection can occur if the implant and surrounding areas are not cleaned properly. Smoking is also attributed to high failure rates with dental implants, and should be avoided following implant procedures.
Dr. Neda Khodai and Dental Implants
Dr. Neda Khodai at Barranca Dental Excellence is on the forefront of Dental Implant techniques and technology. As a dentist in Irvine, she understands the unique needs of her patients for an aesthetically-pleasing and effective solution, while maintaining affordability. Together you will set goals for your dental health and smile that are not just achievable, but long lasting.
If you want more information on Dental Implants and would like to schedule a consultation with Dr. Khodai, or if you need a dentist in Irvine, click below to get in touch with Barranca Dental Excellence.
Information in this article references or reprints portions of the work of Allison DiMatteo and W. Peter Nordland, DMD in their article “Dental Implants: Consultation, Procedure, Recovery and Aftercare”