Overview of Implant Placement
What Are Dental Implants?
A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. If you compare natural teeth to implant-supported replacement teeth, you’ll see they have the same basic parts. Both have a crown (the visible part used to chew food). Both have a root that holds the tooth securely under the gum and is anchored into the jaw. The difference is that the implant is made of titanium – the same time-tested material used by surgeons for artificial joints. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace the tooth, the surgeon first replaces the root with a small dental implant.
Time is allowed for bone to heal and grow around the dental implant. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. A support post (abutment) is then placed on the implant and a new replacement tooth (crown) is placed on top of the abutment. In some cases a temporary replacement tooth can be attached to the implant immediately after it is placed. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.
The Surgical Procedure
The procedure for one implant takes about 30 to 60 minutes, and for multiple implants the procedure lasts about 2 to 3 hours. The number of appointments and time required vary from patient to patient, depending on the complexity of the case.
Prior to surgery, you may receive antibiotics and, to help relax, oral sedation or nitrous oxide (laughing gas). These options are discussed with you at your consultation appointment. A local anesthetic will be administered to numb the area where the implant will be placed.
When you are comfortable, Dr. Stambaugh will make a small incision in the gum tissue to reveal the bone, create space using special instruments, and gently insert the titanium implant. The top of this implant will often be visible through the gum, however, it is sometimes better in the early healing stages to have the implant covered by the gum tissue.
It may be beneficial to perform a soft tissue graft to produce gum tissue that is more durable, accessible for cleaning, and natural looking. This process involves moving a small amount of gum tissue from one part of the mouth to the area around the implant. It is usually a brief and comfortable procedure.
The Healing Phase
The duration of the healing process varies from person to person, depending upon factors such as bone mass and structure. In some cases, implants are restored immediately after they are placed. Dr. Stambaugh and our team will advise you on follow-up care and timing .
Occasionally, impressions are made at the time the implant is placed. This enables the crown to be ready when the implants have healed. Follow-up care (one to four appointments) is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.
At your initial follow up visit, Dr. Stambaugh will place an abutment (support post) or healing cap onto the implant. This will allow gum tissue to mature, as well as provide access to the implant.
Whether you are replacing one tooth or obtaining a whole new set of pearly whites, your referring dentist will complete the restoration by fitting the replacement tooth (crown) to the dental implant(s).
When Are Dental Implants Placed?
Implants are usually placed several months after extraction. However, an implant may be placed immediately after extraction of a tooth on some occasions. This may involve a little more risk, but it simplifies the process—you won’t have to wait for another appointment to place the implant. When infection or other problems with the bone are present, immediate implant placement is not recommended.
If a tooth has been missing for some time, the adjacent support bone is likely to grow thinner and shrink. This occurs because the root of the natural tooth has to be present to stimulate the bone. If an adequate amount of bone is not present on the implant site, the patient may benefit from having additional bone grafted into the area to ensure maximum implant support.
How Many Implants Do I Need?
In most cases, one implant per missing tooth is placed. To replace teeth in the back of the jaw that usually have numerous roots, larger implants are usually inserted instead of creating multiple implants.