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What Is A Dental Implant?

What you should know before you get a metal free dental implant

Dental implants are definitely one of the best innovations that happened to modern dentistry. This is without a doubt. Sure, on paper, it can seem a little frightening. It wouldn’t be a surprise if someone got the heebie-jeebies over having some metal thing screwed into your jawbone. But its benefits very much outweigh the cons, including keeping bone density and ease of use. If you’re still a little hesitant, however, there are other options—such as metal free dental implants.

For the most part, traditional titanium implants have reigned supreme when it comes to dental restorations. And for a good reason, too. Aside from being compatible with human tissue, it’s also durable enough to cling onto the jawbone, ensuring that the implant is firmly set. But it does have its share of disadvantages. For one, they might not be the best option for those who are genuinely allergic to titanium or other metals. For another, the grey color becomes apparent over time, giving the teeth an unsightly appearance. 

What are Implants?

Classified as a kind of prosthetic dentistry or artificial replacement procedure, dental implants use artificial dental roots for the restoration and support of missing teeth or tooth. The main function of this prosthesis is to avert the possibility of jaw bone loss.

Dental implants can address the major setbacks associated with conventional dentures and bridges. One of these setbacks includes an irregularity in bite, which adversely affects nutrition and poses challenges in smiling and talking.

Tooth root replacement provides the patient’s needed stability and strength to maintain their usual eating habits without the unwanted struggle of chewing. Furthermore, dental prosthesis helps maintain facial structure and features.

Implants are Great Because:

Convenience: Removable dental dentures necessitate the aid of adhesives to assure a secure installation. Not only are they messy, but they are tremendously inconvenient and embarrassing. This is especially true with mouth slips and the likely incident when the dentures will accidentally fall off from the mouth. Meanwhile, dental implants do not require adhesives for installation.

Retainment of Facial Features: Dental implants don’t cause structural damage to the jaw bone. Thus, they help maintain the face’s natural contours. Moreover, since they are designed to integrate with the bone, the permanence will eventually take away the feeling that they are just implanted.

Durability: With good oral hygiene, some implants will last a lifetime. They are durable and better able to withstand force and pressure by trauma. In fact, they are more durable than conventional dentures and bridges.

Improvement in Speech: Dentures are uncomfortable, especially if they become loose over time. They tend to cause slurring or mumbling of words. Implants, on the other hand, are surgically attached to the mouth. Therefore, there’s no worry of any teeth slip.

Improvement in Oral Health: Because a dental implant doesn’t involve the alteration of nearby teeth as in traditional bridge placement, more of the patient’s existing teeth are intact. The procedure promotes long-term oral well-being by supporting and allowing improved oral hygiene practices.

No Eating Discomfort: Usage of sliding dentures can make chewing a challenge. Dental implants zeros out the pain when eating and puts no restriction on food choice.

Increases Self-Esteem: Dentures make a person feel self-conscious. On the contrary, implants don’t inhibit any wearer from the opportunity to be confident about themselves.

Improvement of Appearance: These feel and look like natural teeth. Dental implants are specially designed to blend with bone, and these become permanent.

Easier and more enjoyable eating time: The delighting news is that dental implants work like natural teeth. Therefore, this enables s person to consume his or her favorite foods without pain and with confidence.

May Be More Beneficial than Dentures For Some: Dental implants take away the awkward inconvenience of removing dentures. Additionally, they also take away the need to use sloppy adhesives just to keep false teeth in place.


Who are Good Candidates for a Dental Implant Procedure?

To benefit from dental implants, you must be in good health (aside from missing teeth). Additionally, you must have a fully-developed and healthy jawbone. Healthy gums and a healthy jawbone are necessary to support the implants.

If you’re healthy, and your dentist determines that you’re a good candidate for implants, they will schedule the procedure. The appointment will take place either at the dentist’s office under local anesthesia or at a hospital under general anesthesia. This depends on the patient’s particular dental health needs and the amount of surgery that is required.

But implants aren’t a good choice for everyone.

Factors of a good candidate:

  • A strong jaw bone
  • Healthy gum tissue, preferably without gum disease
  • Good oral health

Factors of a bad candidate:

  • Pregnant women
  • Those who don’t take part in oral hygiene
  • Ones who have had neck/head radiation treatment in the past
  • Those who suffer from certain chronic diseases or conditions (due to increased risk of infection)
    • Hemophilia
    • Diabetes
    • A weakened immune system
    • Etcetera
  • People taking specific medications (Speak to your doctor and dentist about this)
    • Steroids
    • Immune-suppressing prescriptions
  • Heavy smokers and drinkers
  • Tooth clenchers or grinders (can place too much pressure on and damage the dental implant)
  • Those with underdeveloped jawbones due to young age

What is the ideal age range for a dental implant procedure?

In restriction of young age, those who are under the age of approximately 18 cannot receive a dental implant given that their jaw is not yet fully developed.

A dental professional will be able to tell whether or not your jaw is at a right place for a dental implant. There’s no minimum age requirement. In fact, it primarily depends on when the jaw bone is fully developed.

As for being too old for dental implants, there’s no such thing. Patients even in their nineties have been successful with dental implants.

However, with older age sometimes comes oral health issues such as gum disease if one did not properly care for their teeth while they were younger. Older patients may also have less gum tissue in the mouth, which is a problem for those who want a dental implant.

Still, even if you think you do not qualify for dental implants, you may be surprised. A consultation with a dental professional is necessary before making an assumption.

Dentists may even be able to provide treatment for oral conditions you currently have if they feel you’re not quite a dental implant candidate but can be with little extra work.

Many patients, even those with gum problems, do qualify.

However, those with a faulty jaw or weak gums may only qualify for removable implants and not their permanent counterpart.


What Do Implants Feel Like?

During the dental implant procedure, patients will not feel pain thanks to anesthesia. However, after the anesthesia wears off, the oral pain will surface. Thus, the dental implant area will be tender to the touch.

The first few days, patients will experience the most pain. Of course, pain levels will vary from patient to patient. Pain medications or painkillers are often suggested or even prescribed by a dentist or doctor in the case of dental implant surgery. Pain should reduce throughout the healing process. Otherwise, a trip to the dentist would be necessary.

After the healing process of approximately 4 to 6 months, the pain should be gone. At this time, the dental implant will feel like a normal part of the mouth if all went well. Infection, severe or worsening pain, bleeding, swelling, and pus are concerning symptoms. A dental professional must be consulted at once in the latter scenarios. The false tooth is supposed to feel pain-free and quite normal after the healing process.


Are Dental Implants Sturdy?

Dental implants, whether removable or permanent, are quite sturdy and are meant to act just like any other tooth. If a tooth implant does fall out (while is unlikely), it’s possible that something went wrong during surgery. It is also possible that the body rejected the implant.

Often dentists will cover the costs to redo the dental implant in the case of an incorrectly implemented implant. They may also find an alternative to tooth restoration if your body continuously rejects the implant.

Permanent dental implants in particular are secured by a rod placed through the gums and into the jaw bone. In turn, they act just as a natural, rooted tooth. Removable implants, while not considered to be as sturdy regarding material used, are also secure. However, these may wear down quicker than permanent implants.


What are the Types of Dental Implants?

There are many types of dental implants out there. Some are meant to replace a single tooth whereas others (such as bridges) replace a set of missing teeth in one segment of the mouth.

Your dentist will decide the best option for your case. However, two broad categories of dental implants are removable and permanent implants. Most patients can pick which type they want between the two options.

On The Bone or Subperiosteal (Removable)

This is suitable for patients who don’t have the necessary bone height or who are not recommended to wear traditional dentures. With the aid of metal supports attached to the gum to hold the implant in place, the dentist positions the artificial dental roots atop the jaw.

Pros

  • Hence their name, removable dental implants can be removed whenever necessary. This makes for easier cleaning.
  • Removable implants are much cheaper than permanent dental implants.
  • Patients with weaker jaw bones or unhealthy gum tissue are more likely to qualify for removable dental implants.
  • Ideal for patients with several missing teeth

Cons

  • The materials used to make removable dental implants aren’t as sturdy as the materials used to make permanent dental implants. Therefore, repair or replacement is much more likely to occur.
  • Because removable dental implants are not permanent in place, one may lose the removable piece.

In The Bone or Endosteal (Permanent)

This is the most popularly kind of prosthesis. The procedure involves the surgical placement of cylinders, blades, or screws into the jawbone. As an alternative to removable dentures and bridges, this kind of implant can hold one prosthetic tooth or a set of teeth.

Pros

  • Very strong, durable materials used
  • Appear more natural than removable dental implants given that they are drilled into the gums as if they’re normal teeth
  • A great option for patients with one or a few missing teeth

Cons

  • This is the pricier option being that the implant has to be precisely implemented in place. It makes use of more expensive materials.
  • Can be a little more difficult to clean than removable dental implants. Water flossers or other special devices may be necessary to clean permanent dental implants if one has trouble doing so.
  • Permanent dental implants require a stronger jaw bone and more gum tissue than their removable counterparts. However, soft tissue replacement may be an option for those who want a permanent device.

Most younger folks would want a permanent dental implant given that it’s permanent. It means less responsibility in the sense that the implant doesn’t have to be removed and replaced back into the mouth. Likewise, they don’t have to be reminded that they have a false tooth. After all, permanent implants act just like any other tooth in the mouth as they stay in place.

However, removable implants are great for those with multiple missing teeth. They are also great for those who would struggle with cleaning permanent implants or have a tigher budget. Those who like the idea of removable dental implants may like and even qualify for a denture as an alternative.

Keep in mind that deciding on which alternative to choose relies on several factors. Apart from personal preference, these factors compose of:

  • Cost
  • Location of missing tooth or teeth
  • The health of the patient
  • The preference of the patient
  • Quality and quantity of the jawbone where the dental implant will be placed
  • A dentist’s recommendations

How is a Dental Implant Procedure done?

The most common method of dental implant placement is known as “staged surgery.” This kind of procedure is elaborated in a three-step process.

  1. The first phase involves the surgical burying of the tooth root replacement into the bone underneath the gum. Protection from pressure and force while healing is the main purpose of this phase. A diet consisting of cold and soft foods, as well as warm soups, may be recommended by the dentist. Upon recovery from this step, surgical removal of the gum will be performed to expose the implant.
  2. By the commencement of the second stage, the implant should have successfully integrated into the bone in a process called osseointegration. Framework posts known as abutments will then be connected to the mouth through the gums. A kind of cuff and collar will form upon the healing of the gum around the abutment. This will allow the dentist the necessary access to the implant in preparation for the final restoration phase which involves the prosthetic tooth placement.
  3. The final stage is the attachment of the artificial tooth or teeth. For single tooth replacements, a dental crown or custom tooth or teeth will be created by the dentist. Customization factors include fit, color, size, and shape with the overall concept of blending the crown with the patient’s remaining teeth. It may take some time for the dentist to provide the patient with a permanent and customized denture or bridge when replacing more than one tooth. In the meantime, a temporary bridge, denture, or crown will be given to aid the patient in eating and speaking.

Is the procedure painful?

You’ll be happy to know that pain is not felt during the placement of a dental implant since the patient is given local or general anesthesia to mask the pain. Sedation may be also an option for anxious patients. Speak to your dentist about this.

After the procedure, though, is when pain is felt. Since dental implants require cutting into the gums and drilling a post into the jaw for the placement of the implant, you can expect moderate pain. However, many patients say this pain is not as bad as they had expected.

Your dentist will likely prescribe or recommend specific pain medication to help alleviate the pain throughout the healing process.

Because the dental implant is still in the healing process and is likely to be tender to the touch and may even swell, bleed, or become infected, keep a close eye to ensure symptoms do not worsen or persist for a long period.

What is the success rate of the procedure?

In general, there’s an estimated 98% success rate when it comes to dental implants. However, results vary depending on the patient’s jaw bone structure and the position where the implant is placed in the jaw. Nevertheless, proper aftercare can exceptionally extend the lifespan and usability of the prosthetic tooth or teeth.

How much does a dental implant procedure cost?

The average cost for a dental implant, including the actual implant, abutment, and the crown, is around $4,000. Costs will vary from dentist to dentist and depend on where you live. Likewise, the cost also depends on any other procedures or complications that may arise. Do expect extra costs just to be on the safe side.

Keep in mind that permanent dental implants are more pricey (and recovery may be longer) than their removable counterparts.

Discuss costs further with a dental professional, and consider insurance that may provide coverage.

Check your current plan’s limitations and see if it qualifies with your dentist, or search for an applicable plan through Dental Plans’ website.

Is a dental implant procedure covered by insurance?

Most dental insurance policies don’t cover dental prosthesis. Exemptions vary depending on the purchased plan. Discussion with your insurance provider and a dentist can enlighten you on your queries about coverage.

If you are wondering if you’re a suitable candidate for a dental implant, set an appointment with your dentist right away. Chances are, those who are healthy enough for oral surgery or tooth extraction are fit for the procedure. In fact, overall health is more of a key determinant than age when assessing for qualified implant patients.


What can I eat after a Dental Implant Surgery?

First and foremost, you can pretty much start eating right after the surgery is completed. However, because you’ll feel tired from the general or local anesthesia you were given, you may decide to eat a little later.

You cannot, however, consume whatever you want at this point forward. Although, there’s no need to wait to eat unless recommended by your surgeon.

You’ll likely be hungry after the procedure considering you had to fast for about six hours or so before going in for surgery.

Resort to eating softer foods and liquids such as scrambled eggs, yogurt, cottage cheese and other very soft cheeses, soups, sugarless fruit or vegetable juices or smoothies, oatmeal, cream of wheat, applesauce, macaroni and cheese, soft breads, and other softer foods that won’t be harmful to your swollen and painful mouth.

Anywhere from 10 to 14 days or so (depending on how quickly you end up healing), you’ll want to resort to this softer diet.

The first few days especially, you may even want to consume just liquids and liquid meal replacements such as soups, protein drinks, smoothies, and juices.

A non-chew diet for these first few days is ideal, even perhaps later in recovery if the pain is preventing you from eating more solid foods. However, opting for pain medication or an over-the-counter pain reliever can be helpful.

Especially avoid foods that are crunchy, hard, or very chewy. This can cause more discomfort and a longer healing time for your procedure. It can also cause trauma to the area of the surgery. It’s important that you’re especially careful with the healing region.

It’s also important to note that you cannot and should not drink through a straw during the first few days or so after your dental implant surgery.

Doing so can cause more pain and bleeding in addition to a dry socket. A dry socket is when a blood clot is ejected from the area that is healing, which can cause pain and a longer healing process. Instead, sip directly from the glass.

After you heal from the procedure in a few weeks or so, it’s safe to eat whatever you want and continue sipping through a straw, that is, as long as the healing dental implant has greatly improved and has not faced further difficulties through recovery.

With your new dental implant or implants (after recovery), you can be ensured that you can eat just as you had before you underwent surgery. Implants are very strong and sturdy devices in your mouth, acting just like any other rooted tooth.


How is the recovery and healing process?

The first couple of days after the procedure will be the most painful for the patient. The healing process can take anywhere from 4-6 months. Nevertheless, healing processes will vary from patient to patient.

An additional 4 months of recovery can be expected for those who had a bone graft bone before the implant.

Your recovery time will also be dependent on how well you follow post-surgery guidelines, how many dental implants you had placed, your overall health, and what type of dental implant(s) you had put in.

The pain will also vary from person to person, but weeks of pain can be expected. Pain should not persist or worsen through the healing process unless something is wrong such as an incorrectly placed implant, rejection of the implant, improper oral care, or an accident done to the implant before it was fully healed. See your dentist as soon as possible in instances such as these.

How will the dental implant itself feel after the healing process?

Dental implants, luckily, feel just like any other tooth in the mouth. Of course with any foreign object in the mouth, you may have difficulty speaking or eating at first depending on the where the dental implant is located and how many dental implants you have had put in.

If you have trouble eating, speaking, or getting used to the implant several weeks after the implant was put in, give your dentist a call to ask for advice on what you can do. After a while, you shouldn’t notice the implant in your mouth or feel any different as you did before you had it.

Here are some tips to reduce pain and ensure a speedier recovery:

  • Take prescribed or suggested pain medications. If any issues occur with the medication, notify your dentist or a doctor immediately.
  • Keep your diet light for a while, and opt to eat foods that are soft or liquid-y. Sugar-free smoothies are ideal as a meal replacement. Stay away from hard, chewy, sticky, or gooey foods or drinks during the healing process of your dental implant.
  • Don’t drink through a straw for the first few days after surgery. Doing so can cause a dry socket and heavier bleeding and pain. Only drink directly from a cup.
  • Rinse with warm salt water a few times each day or so to promote a cleaner and less bacteria-filled mouth to decrease the recovery time.
  • Avoid very hot (in temperature) foods. Otherwise, these can irritate the healing implant.
  • Follow post-procedure instructions from your dentist.
  • Get plenty of sleep to allow your body to fully heal.
  • Ice down the area to reduce inflammation and pain.
  • Be strict with your oral hygienic routine. Don’t skip out on brushing or flossing! Do, though, brush with a softer-bristled brush during the healing process.
  • Contact a dentist ASAP if you experience any problems. Getting these issues fixed quickly can help speed up recovery and ensure things come out as expected in the end.

Is There a Risk for Oral Infection Post-Procedure?

Like with all surgeries, there is a risk for infection after dental implantation.

Some patients describe a strange flavor after having their dental implant put in place.

Having a strange flavor may simply be due to lack of oral hygiene. However, having this only around your implant or having this strange flavor persist for days even after thorough care, it very well may be a case of peri-implantitis, a form of oral infection.

No worries – This infection can be resolved, ideally after seeking professional dental care. This infection can range from minor to major. Both cases, though, should be checked out by a professional.

What causes peri-implantitis?

Anyone with a dental implant can suffer from this type of oral infection. Lack of proper oral care, getting food stuck around the implant, or even having the implant recently put in are a few good reasons as to why peri-implantitis can occur. The cause of this infection, though, can really only be identified by a dental professional.

What are the treatment options for peri-implantitis?

A dental professional can assist one with getting rid of their minor or major peri-implantitis in multiple ways. In minor cases, a dentist may simply thoroughly clean your mouth and around your implant and suggest that you replace your toothbrush, opt for better oral hygiene, or start/continue using mouthwash. Certain rinses (such as rinsing with warm salt water) or special, specific means of oral hygiene may also be suggested.

In more severe cases, a dental professional may provide some sort of medication to alleviate the infection quicker and more efficiently. A dentist may also surgically remove the infected region around the dental implant or even opt for a dental implant replacement.

How can I prevent peri-implantitis?

Some causes of peri-implantitis cannot be avoided (even so, peri-implantitis can seem to appear out of the blue); however, good oral hygiene definitely helps. Flossing even between your implant ensures food particles won’t be lodged in between, potentially risking an infection.

Regardless, it’s important to seek dental care if one suffers from implant problems, or any tooth-related issue, to receive care efficiently and quickly. Dental implants are serious, just like any other tooth.

Treat your implant just as you would any other tooth in your mouth. If your implant is removable, take it out for cleaning purposes. Consider soaking it in denture cleaner in addition to brushing it. Keeping your implant in top-notch form will certainly help reduce your risk of peri-implantitis and other complications.


How Can I Care For My Dental Implants?

After the procedure, it’s up to you to take care of your dental implant along with the rest of your oral health. Speaking of implants, here’s how you can adequately care for them:

How can I make my dental implant last as long as possible?

Because there’s no true guaranteed time period dental implants will last, taking extra precautions and means of care will be vital. This is especially true because the parts of a dental implant and the procedure that takes place are not easy on the wallet.

No worries, though, as you can definitely ensure your dental implant will last a long time with little to no replacements with the adequate care!

Your dentist is likely to give you specific guidelines and advice regarding caring for your dental implant long after surgery has passed. But if that was not the case, you’ll be glad to know that caring for a dental implant, while it may be a bit different than caring for regular teeth, can be fairly easy to get used to overtime.

Brushing, flossing, and swishing with mouthwash are all just important, if not more important now than ever before. Just because a dental implant is not a real tooth doesn’t mean it can’t pose a risk for development of oral-related issues or house bad oral bacteria, because it can.

The type of toothbrush you use (manual versus electric) isn’t necessarily going to make for a better or worse hygienic method for your tooth implant; the choice is yours. However, if you have trouble flossing your dental implant, opt for special flossing tools such as an interdental flossing tool, electric flosser, or even a water flosser.

Using traditional string floss and wrapping it around the teeth in a crisscross pattern and moving the floss up and down is also an ideal method for flossing a dental implant. Consult a dentist if you still have trouble cleaning your implant or are unsure about something in regard to oral hygiene.

Here are some important tips to consider:

  • Oral bacteria will still thrive on and around your dental implant, even though your implant cannot get “cavities.” Oral bacteria can cause a wide range of oral health problems.
  • Don’t let your dental implant lead you to think less oral care is necessary just because dental implants are not real teeth. Oral care is just as important now if not more!
    • Brush, floss, and rinse with mouthwash twice a day as always. Opt for special flossing devices if you have trouble flossing with your dental implant.
  • Don’t skip out on your biannual (or more if recommended) dental cleanings/checkups.
  • Consult a dentist regarding any oral-related problems you discover, whether or not it has directly to do with your dental implant. (Strong, healthy gums are vital for both regular teeth and dental implants.) Don’t ignore any symptoms or problems you come across as this could be serious.
  • Don’t be afraid to ask your dentist questions when it comes to the care or other aspects of your dental implant. They’re here to help and provide assistance when necessary.
  • Avoid or reduce smoking and drinking. These two habits can contribute to oral-related problems not ideal for dental implant patients especially. Be kind to your dental implant, and be responsible for smoking and drinking.

Can I get my implants replaced?

Permanent dental implants, because they’re made of stronger, better materials (while they are more expensive than removable implants), should not need to be replaced. Though, the dental crown that’s placed on top of the implant is likely to need a replacement every 15 years, but proper care may result in longer-lasting crowns.

Their removable counterparts are likely to require repair or replacement more often given that they’re made out of less expensive materials, but this time period varies based on the care the implant is given.


History of Dental Implants

Dental implants have been around much longer than you may have imagined, as you’ll soon discover.

It’s believed that Egyptians perhaps as far back as 2,500 B.C. tried to keep loose or misaligned teeth in place to stabilize them over time by using gold wires.

Even the Mayans around 600 B.C. were found to have had seashells, jade, and carved stones placed within their jaws either as a means of tooth replacement or as a way of adorning the mouth.

You may have never guessed that our far ancestors had anything remotely close to what we know today as a dental implant, but they sure did have unique ways to do so!

In Europe in the 1600s, it was clear that doctors understood jawlines and mouths. Around the 1700s, the first means of a modern-day implants were essentially used in the form of transplantation.

However, rather than implanting a false, realistic-looking tooth to replace a missing tooth, teeth from the deceased were used instead at this point in time. This was just one step closer to our modern dental implants.

In the 1950s, the essential introduction to modern dental implants we know today became clear once a Swedish orthopedic surgeon implanted titanium optic chambers onto the leg bones of a rabbit using osseointegration and couldn’t remove them.

Today, dental implants are synthetic, but they look and act realistically as any other natural tooth in the mouth. We are very lucky for the modern-day tooth replacement options we have at hand.

 

Date Published: May 11, 2017

Last Updated: March 8, 2019

 

References: 

https://www.colgate.com/en-us/oral-health/cosmetic-dentistry/implants/what-are-dental-implants

http://dentalimplants.com/

https://www.webmd.com/oral-health/guide/dental-implants#1

https://www.aaid-implant.org/dental-implants/what-are-dental-implants/

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