Tooth implants help restore a natural appearance to your smile by providing permanent replacement teeth. Because dental implants are anchored in your jaw bone, the implanted tooth feels and looks like a natural tooth. According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, the success rate for tooth implants is about 95 percent.
You may be approved for a tooth implant if you are willing to go through the lengthy procedure involved in implantation and have enough bone in your jaw to support the implant. In some cases, you may be able to have a bone graft if the jaw bone isn't strong enough for an implant. If you have a health condition that slows healing, a dental implant may be less likely to be successful. Dental implants are not usually used in children until full jaw bone growth is achieved.
Before the Procedure
Before beginning the implantation procedure, your dentist will evaluate your teeth and take X-rays of your mouth. Your dentist will also determine if you need a bone graft prior to implantation. A bone graft may be needed if your bone is too thin or soft and won't able to support the implant. During the bone graft procedure, a small piece of bone is removed from another area of your jaw or your hip and placed in the weak area of your jaw. If the grafted area is large, it may take several months until the new area of bone can support the implant. If you require only minor grafting, the procedure may not delay implantation.
The First Step
Placing a tooth implant is a multi-step process that often takes between three to nine months to complete. The first step in the process involves drilling holes in the bone in order to place the metal implant cylinder that will serve as the root of the implant. It may take up to six months for the bone to grow around the cylinder and secure it in place. You will be given local or general anesthesia or sedation while the holes are drilled and may need to eat soft foods for several days after the procedure. Because you will not yet have received the part of the implant that is visible above the gum line, you may be given a temporary denture in order to cover the gap in your mouth.
When the metal cylinder is anchored securely in your jaw bone, the abutment will be placed. The abutment connects the crown, the portion of the implant that looks like a tooth, to the metal cylinder. Placing the abutment requires making a small incision in the gum in order to reach the metal cylinder. Local anesthesia is usually used for this step. After placement of the abutment, your gums will need to heal for a few weeks before the implantation process can continue.
Placing the Artificial Tooth
Once the area around the abutment heals, your dentist will make an impression of your mouth. The impression will be sent to a prosthodontist, a dentist who specializes in making artificial teeth, so that a crown can be made. You can choose to have a fixed implant prosthesis, a crown that will be permanently cemented on to the abutment, or can choose a removable prosthesis. A removable prosthesis snaps into place and can be removed for cleaning, somewhat similar to dentures.