An implant is a man made root, made of surgical titanium (like artificial hips or knees), that is implanted into the upper or lower jaw (it is not as painful as it sounds!). It is not unusual that if a particular tooth cannot be saved, say from tooth decay or gum disease, the tooth can be removed and an implant placed immediately – at that very appointment. This is very convenient because in this manner there is only one surgical procedure.
One of the few limiting characteristics of implants is that the patient must have sufficient amount of bone for the implant. When there is too little bone available a graft can be placed providing enough hard tissue for the implant. So the good news is that just about anyone can enjoy the benefits of implants.
After the implant has been placed and sometimes this requires careful coordination with our office and the office of a specialist that assists us with implants, healing must occur. This period of time which commonly lasts from two to six months is without pain. We simply must wait for the bone to grow and attach itself to the implant.
The next step after healing is to take the final impressions. This too, is without discomfort as no injections or medicine is necessary. On top of the implant we use almost exclusively custom fabricated abutments (created for us by a special dental laboratory here in Houston) which are basically an extension screwed into the top of the implant providing a base for a new porcelain crown to hold on to. The custom abutments are much healthier for the patient as they minimize any chance of irritation around the new implant.
Implants can replace a single tooth or used with other implants to support a permanent bridge – which cannot be removed. Alternatively they can anchor a denture or partial denture making metal clasps seen on partial dentures no longer necessary. If we are able to use enough implants an entire arch of teeth can be anchored to the jaw in a realistic and esthetic manner.
One of the benefits of an implant is that teeth next to the space being filled by the implant remain untouched. Another benefit is that the implant will never get a cavity. They can have problems similar to gum disease but the success rate in the lower jaw is 97% and in the upper jaw it is 95%. Should an implant fail the procedure is to remove the implant and just place another one- perhaps with a graft – but this can be repeated as necessary.
With today’s modern technology no one has to be without teeth. Dental implants give missing teeth back to the patient. I like to say: it is like you are getting younger!Back