A dental implant is a prosthetic that’s used to replace a missing tooth. The implant itself is a metal post made of the same type of metal that’s used to create artificial joints. The post is implanted into the jaw bone where it serves as an artificial root, securing a strong dental crown designed to look and feel just like a natural tooth. Implants are far more secure than dentures or bridges, and they can help prevent bone resorption following tooth loss that can lead to additional tooth loss in the future.
Dental implants usually require two or three separate visits. Once the patient is deemed a good candidate for an implant, an impression is made and sent to a lab where the implant crown will be made. The metal post is implanted into the jaw bone during a procedure that’s usually performed using sedation. The metal post requires a certain amount of jaw bone in order to be stable. If the jaw bone is thin, a bone graft procedure may need to be performed to augment the existing bone. Once the implant post is in place, several weeks will elapse before the second appointment, During this time, the post will fuse with the natural bone tissue, a process called osseointegration. Once the post has fused with the jaw bone, the patient will return to the office and the crown will be attached using a special piece called an abutment. The crown will be skillfully shaped and tinted to blend in with the surrounding teeth so it looks completely natural.
Implants can be cared for just like natural teeth, with regular flossing and brushing and twice-yearly dental checkups to ensure the gums surrounding the implant remain healthy. Although the tooth itself cannot decay, the gums can still become infected. As with a natural tooth and root, gum disease can weaken the bone surrounding the metal post, and having routine checkups and cleanings is important to prevent gum disease and to ensure the implant post remains secure.