Dental Implants Explained

Dental implants replace missing teeth with a replacement tooth that looks, feels and functions like a natural tooth. This restores your smile and allows you to eat, drink and speak normally without concern that your prosthetic tooth might fall out. Implants are durable and can last a lifetime with proper oral hygiene.

The implant acts as an artificial root, stimulating bone growth and preventing the jaw bone from deteriorating in the area where the tooth is absent. This is called osseointegration. The implant is made of titanium, a strong and biocompatible material that fuses with the bone.

Your dentist will place the implant during a surgical procedure in your mouth. First, your oral surgeon will make an incision in the gum tissue to expose the bone and create a site (called an osteotomy) for the implant to be placed. Next, the implant fixture is inserted into the osteotomy and screwed in place. The gum tissue is then sutured.

You can expect a smooth recovery from the surgery and an uncomplicated healing period following placement of the dental implant. During this time, you should avoid putting pressure on the newly replaced tooth and adhere to your oral professional’s instructions for eating, drinking and brushing your teeth. You should also refrain from smoking, which can interfere with the healing process.

After the implant heals, a small connector post — called an abutment — is attached to it, allowing your dentist to attach a new replacement tooth or denture to the implant. A new replacement tooth or denture is fabricated based on a model of your bite and the specific details of your case. Depending on your needs, you may have an abutment with a single crown or one or more anchoring abutments with dentures.

Another benefit of dental implants is that they don’t require reducing healthy adjacent teeth as a tooth-supported bridge does. By filling the empty space, an implant prevents healthy adjacent teeth from shifting toward the gap and causing bite problems or requiring orthodontic treatment in the future.

Dental implants also look, feel and function more like natural teeth than other tooth replacement options. Many patients are unable to tell the difference between their implants and their natural teeth. They also feel more confident in social situations than people with missing or poorly-fitting removable dentures.

Dental implants have a survival rate comparable to that of natural teeth, with an overall success rate of more than 90%. Implants can sometimes fail due to infection, poor oral hygiene or habits such as clenching or grinding teeth or an improper diet, but these problems are rare when the implant has been properly planned and cared for. However, implant failure is more common in heavy smokers or individuals with chronic diseases or who receive radiation therapy to the head/neck area. As implant technology continues to improve, it is expected that the survival rates will continue to increase. A consultation with your dental professional can help you determine if an implant is right for you.


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