For people who are missing a tooth (or more), a single-tooth implant may be recommended. An implant is surgically placed in an opening created by the dentist in the jawbone. After the implant has integrated to the bone, it serves as the new “root” for the crown that will be used to replace the missing tooth.
For a tooth implant procedure to work, it is necessary that there’s enough bone in the jaw. In addition, the bone needs to be strong enough to support and hold the implant in place. In cases where the bone left is not enough, a procedure known as bone grafting or bone augmentation may be done.
Prior to the procedure, the dentist will perform a thorough examination. The exam will often involve reviewing of the dental and medical history, taking of X-rays, and creation of teeth and gum impressions. In some instances, the dentist may also order a CT (computed tomography) scan of the mouth.
If the X-rays indicate that there is not enough bone to sustain the implant, the dentist will discuss possible alternatives to build up the bone. Possible procedures may include bone distraction and bone grafting. If the procedure is done, additional 4 to 12 months might be needed for the bone to be ready for the implant.
Apart from the risks of surgery, there is also the possibility that the implant will fail. While it rarely happens, an implant can fail if an infection occurs or when the bite has not been adjusted accordingly. Patients who have bruxism may also put tremendous pressure on the implant each time they clench and grind their teeth. Severe clenching, gnashing, and grinding may cause the implant to break or fail.
Dental Implant Care
Getting an implant is not as straightforward as popping a retainer in the mouth. A dental implant will require surgery. That being said, it also demands proper aftercare. Fortunately, cleaning dental implants is pretty much the same as cleaning the natural teeth. That means you need to routinely brush, floss, and use non-alcoholic mouthwash to ensure your teeth are properly cleaned.
To help keep the artificial teeth as clean as possible, using cleaning instruments might also be recommended. For instance, some people use oral irrigators or water flossers to help reduce inflammation and plaque. A water flosser with a nonmetal tip is used once or twice daily and is supplemented with a non-alcoholic antimicrobial rinse as needed.
Periodically, it is also recommended that you get your teeth cleaned by a dental professional. Dental professionals can provide thorough cleaning so the teeth as well as the implant (including the gums and surrounding tissues) are kept free from bacteria which might cause infection. In addition, the dentist can also check if the overall alignment and condition of the implant is still okay.
During the process (which can take several months), it is expected that you’ll be making a lot of visits to the dentist. However, it is reassuring to note that after the initial period of osseointegration and adaption, the implant can be treated like the rest of the natural teeth. In other words, a visit to the dentist every 6 months will suffice.