A series of dental implant procedures can restore functionality and perfect cosmetic appearance to individuals who have lost teeth. Dental implants are a form of prosthesis that replace teeth and prevent jaw bone loss. Replacing one tooth or many requires the same series of dental implant procedures. As self care during healing is extremely important, a large part of the responsibility for success rests with the patient.
A dental implant is an artificial tooth that has the same appearance and strength as a natural tooth. Implanted into the jaw, it is nearly impossible to tell the difference between it and natural teeth. As dental implants, unlike dentures, are a permanent solution to tooth loss, they require a series of procedures to ensure that the artificial tooth will work just as well and for as long as the real thing.
After one has lost a tooth to injury or cavities, a dentist first assesses whether the site is appropriate for an implant. This decision depends on whether there is enough healthy jaw bone to support the implant. If not, a bone graph may be necessary before any implantation takes place. Performing a bone graph requires extra healing time to ensure that the dental implant will succeed later on.
With adequate bone, dental implant procedures can begin. In the first session, a dentist creates what is known as a pilot hole through the gum and into the jawbone. A dentist's skill is most important at this step as any mistake can cause damage to facial nerves. The dentist places a titanium screw through the pilot hole and anchors it into the bone. A protective covering is placed over the structure before the patient is sent home.
Three to six months are necessary for the titanium anchor to fuse into the bone. This process, known as osseointegration, guarantees that the dental implant will have the strength and resistance of a natural tooth. After healing has finished, a temporary dental crown is placed on top of the screw for two months to allow extra healing time. If a dentist is satisfied at the end of this time, the last step is to install a permanent crown.
The success of dental implant procedures depends heavily on patient self care during the required healing time. A patient must follow the instructions of his or her doctor. For example, a patient may need to use prescription mouthwash on a daily basis and/or avoid certain foods. As dental implant procedures carry the risk of infection, reporting any redness or swelling at the implant site is necessary to prevent implant failure.