dental implant model

Missing teeth can be a major inconvenience for people. Not only does it make regular biting and chewing more difficult or painful, it can be a source of physical insecurity and embarrassment. Luckily, today’s dental advancements allow for dental implants to replace missing teeth that look and act just like real teeth.

How Does a Dental Implant Work?

An artificial root is implanted into the mouth through a surgical procedure that permanently anchors the titanium implant to the jaw bone. This procedure provides extremely durable and long-lasting results as the artificial root eventually fuses with the jaw bone. The dental implant can hold a complete replacement tooth or provide support for other types of dental fixtures, such as crowns, bridges or dentures.

Benefits of Dental Implants

Woman smiling after getting dental implant

More patients are turning to dental implants over the traditional options of bridges or dentures to replace missing or damaged teeth. The technology and materials behind dental implants have advanced to a point where this service is easier and more affordable than ever. The proven functionality and reliable results of dental implants are quickly making them one of the most requested treatments for dental patients.

Advantages of dental implants include:

  • A more permanent fix. Dental implants are designed to permanently replace missing teeth. They are made to last a lifetime and have a proven success rate of 95 percent during a 40-year testing period.
  • Natural appearance and functionality. In addition to resembling a natural tooth, a dental implant root will fuse to the jaw bone, making it function as a natural tooth as well. Following the procedure and healing period, patients will experience no clear difference between the implant or natural teeth.
  • No special maintenance required. Because dental implants are anchored to the mouth just as a natural tooth, you don’t have to worry about special cleaning requirements as you would with dentures or bridges.
  • Prevents bone loss. Once a tooth is removed or falls out, the jaw bone in the surrounding area will begin to break down, leading to a number of oral problems. Because dental implants act as natural teeth, the bone will stay stimulated and prevent further disintegration.
  • Preserves your bite. Other teeth will begin to shift after space is created by a missing tooth. This misalignment will impact the effectiveness of your bite and even change facial features. By utilizing a dental implant, teeth will remain aligned and your current bite will stay intact.
  • Offers an affordable option. Other fixes for missing teeth, such as bridges, will cost anywhere between $3,000 to $4,000 and will need to be replaced periodically throughout your lifetime. Dental implants range from $4,000 to $6,000, but will only need to be installed once.

What’s Involved with a Dental Implant Procedure?

Dentist showing patient dental implant procedure

Initial Exam

The first thing your dentist or oral surgeon will do is assess whether or not your jaw bone is strong enough to handle a dental implant effectively. This can be determined by the use of x-rays, teeth impressions and other necessary scans to collect information, such as the thickness and density of your jaw.

Also, the affected area will be thoroughly examined to make sure a dental implant is the ideal treatment option for your situation. If the dental professional decides an implant is the best choice, your surgery will be scheduled.

Surgery Preparations

Prior to the dental implant surgery, your dentist or oral surgeon may instruct you to do certain things or refrain from others to properly prep for the surgery. Depending on your specific circumstance, you may have to use an antibacterial mouthwash, start an antibiotic regimen, or switch your diet for a period of time. If you are a smoker, you will need to refrain from smoking to better prepare the mouth and gums for your dental implant surgery.

Dental Implant Surgery

Here are the steps you can expect on the first day of the procedure:

  • Anesthesia. A local anesthetic will be injected into the area that will be worked on. With this method, you will be awake for the procedure, but will not feel anything other than mild pressure. However, you can opt to be unconscious or have a stronger anesthesia that will leave you completely unaware of what’s happening if you are uncomfortable with that option.
  • Prep the implant site. After the anesthesia is in effect, a small incision will be made to the gum where the implant will be placed. The next step is drilling a small hole, or osteotomy, into the jaw bone just below the gum line.
  • Placing the implant. Once the drilled hole is wide enough, an alignment pin will be used to correctly place the implant. The incision will then be stitched up using dissolvable stitches and this portion of the procedure is complete.

After these steps, you will be sent home to begin the healing process. This can take anywhere between three to six months, depending on the patient. This allows for the implant to properly fuse to the bone. You will then see your dentist for the next step:

  • Set the abutment. After being numbed with a local anesthetic, a small incision is made to expose the implant. The abutment, or the piece that connects the implant and the replacement tooth or crown, is then placed. Also, an impression is taken for your crown.
  • Placing the crown. Once your crown is ready, the final step of the procedure is to place it over the abutment. Your dentist will securely screw the crown into the implant.

Healing Process

Your dentist will give you instruction on how to care for the implant site and practice the best oral hygiene to avoid infections, pain, and complications. It’s important to follow these steps completely so your implant stays in permanently and the process does not have to be repeated. These instructions may include specific brushing or flossing recommendations, special mouthwash, restricted diet, pain medication and regular checkups.

Potential Risks of Dental Implants

As with any dental surgery, complications can occur if the procedure is not done correctly or special circumstances prevent the expected outcome. Although rare, here are some complications to consider:

Infections

An infection of the dental implant, or peri-implantitis, will cause inflammation of the gums and bone surrounding the dental implant. This can lead to bone loss in the jaw bone, which is a major problem when it comes to supporting the dental implant. This infection is caused by bacteria being introduced to the surgical site, either during the procedure or the healing process. This complication happens more frequently with patients who neglect proper oral hygiene, smoke or use other tobacco products, have diabetes or suffer from a weak immune system.

Overloading

This sometimes occurs when the procedure is completed during one visit. It can result in the dental implant not properly fusing with the bone. The fusing step, or osseointegration, is the most crucial part of a successful dental implant and could fail if too much pressure is applied. Your dentist will know whether there should be a longer healing period between steps or if a temporary crown can be added right away at placement.

Allergic Reaction

Although a very rare occurrence, some patients are unaware of an allergy to titanium. If you suspect you might have a sensitivity to titanium, get tested before the surgery to avoid allergic complications after the procedure.

Schedule a Professional Consultation

If you’re interested in getting a dental implant to replace a missing tooth, you can schedule an in-depth consultation with one of our Reno dentists to confirm it’s the best option for you. Patients who are missing a higher number of teeth or who require a tooth to be extracted will usually benefit the most from this procedure.

As a safe, affordable, long-lasting treatment, dental implants could be the perfect way for you to achieve a confident and strong smile. Schedule an appointment to see one of our Reno dental professionals today.

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