We live in a world of incredible technology; we’re constantly improving on our prosthetics. We have artificial heart valves and artificial hearts, prosthetic hands with robotic functionality, and incredible prosthetic legs. Loss of limb is no longer enough to hold humans back; we can empower people to live their best lives with our technology. For dental care, there’s a prosthetic that can replace your teeth, right down to their roots; the dental implant. There are a few steps to the implant process, but if you’ve lost teeth that you want to be replaced, it may be the procedure for you.
Dental implants are, in effect, a replacement for the roots of your teeth. When roots have decayed beyond utility or been removed, it becomes difficult to repair and replace teeth; it’s impossible to add a crown, for example, when there’s no underlying structure. Implants are made of titanium, and inserted into the jawbone to replace the roots of the tooth. The implant can act as an anchor for an artificial tooth, by giving it structural integrity.
Not everyone can get a dental implant; if there isn’t enough jawbone to hold the titanium implant, the procedure is no longer feasible. To work around this, some patients are eligible for a bone graft, in which the jawbone is shored up with grafted bone. You should also be in good general health, and have healthy gums, to undertake the procedure. This can be challenging because poor oral health is often what leads to needing dental implants in the first place.
The procedure for the implant is relatively simple; once the green light has been given for the procedure, if the damaged tooth is still present, it will be removed. The dentist or specialist will then cut into the gum to expose the bone, then drill into the bone to make space for the implant. The metal implant is placed, and the gum is stitched up. At this point, there is no artificial tooth where the implant was placed; that’s because time is needed in order to ensure the implant integrity. As the bone heals, it will grow into the implant in a process known as osseointegration.
Once osseointegration is complete (the process can take months), your dentist will add in abutment, essentially a nub located above the gum to which the artificial tooth will be affixed. The gum is reopened, the abutment is attached and the gum is allowed to grow around the abutment.
Once the gums are allowed to heal around the abutment, and stability is achieved (the process takes a couple of weeks), the artificial tooth can be placed. The teeth can be removable or fixed, and come in a variety of shapes and colour to best suit your mouth.
The process of getting a dental implant is long and painful, but can lead to better oral health than a missing tooth. The best way to handle an implant, however, is by not having to get one in the first place; practicing preventive oral care by brushing twice a day, flossing once a day, and visiting a recognized dental office yearly is the best way to maintain your mouth.