Dental Implants

A long-term solution

Missing teeth are more than just a cosmetic issue; they affect how a person eats, drinks, and breathes. Dental implant surgery, performed by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS), is the most permanent solution available for missing teeth as the implants integrate directly with a patient’s jawbone. Plus, unlike fixed bridges or removable dentures, dental implants will not affect neighboring healthy teeth or lead to bone loss in the jaw. If properly cared for, dental implants can last a lifetime.

After more than 20 years of service, the vast majority of dental implants first placed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States continue to function at peak performance. More importantly, the recipients of those early dental implants are still satisfied they made the right choice.

Dental implant surgery is, of course, surgery, and is best done by a trained surgeon. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon (OMS) has the specialized education and training in the complexities of the bone, skin, muscles and nerves involved, to ensure you get the best possible results. A 2014 study suggests greater implant success rates when performed by a dental specialist.

How do dental implants work?

Implants are made of titanium metal that "fuses" with the jawbone through a process called "osseointegration." There's no short cut to get around that process, and it usually takes several months once the implant is put into your jawbone. Osseointegration, however, is why implants never slip or make embarrassing noises like dentures, and why bone loss is usually not a problem.

Depending on a patient’s needs, a single implant could replace one or more teeth. Two or more implants can serve as a stable support for the replacement of multiple teeth.

 
titanium implant
 

A dental implant restoration is composed of these three parts:

  • A titanium implant that fuses to the jawbone through a process called osseointegration.

  • An abutment, which is the portion of the implant that rises above the gum line.

  • A crown fitted atop the abutment to give the appearance of a natural tooth.

After the implant is placed by an OMS, it takes time for the titanium to fuse with the jaw. Once the implant is stabilized, a restorative dentist takes an impression of the upper and lower jaws to make a model from which the needed crowns are created.

Some implants may be eligible for immediate provisionalization or loading:

  • Immediate Provisionalization – When the missing tooth is in a very visible area, a temporary crown may be placed at the time of surgery. This crown is for appearance purposes only and should not be used for chewing or biting.

  • Immediate Loading – Patients with adequate bone to support the implant may be eligible for immediate loading, which is the placement of temporary or permanent crowns at the time of surgery or very soon afterward. This allows for a patient to return to a more normal diet sooner.

Full osseointegration can take several months but once complete, the dental implant will be as sturdy as the original tooth. Dental implants do not slip or make noises the way dentures can, nor do they require replacement the way a dental bridge might.

Knowing tooth replacement with a dental implant requires not only the implant but also one or more crowns, some patients may be concerned about the cost of dental implants, but it is important to recognize the value of a potentially lifelong replacement for lost teeth.

The longevity and resemblance of dental implants to real teeth is why so many people choose implants as their permanent solution to missing teeth. We would love to set up a consult with you to discuss how dental implants might be a satisfying long-term solution for you.

For more information, please visit the website of AAOMS (American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons) at myoms.org.