Dental implants provide a long-term solution if you have one or more missing teeth, and they have an excellent chance of success if you understand the process and how to care for your mouth before, when, and after they’re placed. If you are considering this life-changing procedure or have an implant surgery coming up, these insights will help you approach the process with confidence.
Dental Implants Are a Long-Term Investment
Dental implants—when properly placed—last far longer than fillings, crowns, bridges, or veneers, so the higher upfront cost pays for itself with time.
Individual implants can last a lifetime, and even complete implant sets—like all-on-four and all-on-six implants—can last for decades without needing maintenance or replacement. As noted by leading Bakersfield dentist Dr. Dimitri Salin, “All-on-four implants can last up to 20 years later with proper care and keeping up with regular cleanings and dental visits.”
Because implants are so long-lasting, it’s vital to choose an experienced cosmetic dentist for the procedure. The right dentist will make sure that:
- You are a suitable candidate for dental implants
- The implants are made from a high-quality ceramic material
- The implants look natural
- The color of your implants matches the color of the surrounding teeth
- You have an optimal number of posts for the number of prosthetic teeth to be placed, so as not to put too much strain on the jaw
- You know how to take care of your implants
Dental Implants Look and Function Like Natural Teeth
When placed correctly, dental implants restore full functionality and aesthetics to your mouth, allowing you to eat, drink, speak, and smile normally. Furthermore, when your implants are crafted by an experienced professional, no one will be able to tell them apart from your natural teeth.
Partial or full dentures—which were previously the standard solution for missing teeth—can cause gum discomfort, change your speech, and cause embarrassment when they stick together or fall out. In contrast, dental implants offer the same comfort as natural teeth, without any risk of staining or decay.
Dental Implants Keep Your Jawbone Strong
In the mouth, tooth roots work to stimulate the jawbone and keep it strong. When a tooth falls out or is surgically extracted, the jawbone can atrophy, allowing other teeth to shift out of place. When you have a dental implant placed, the post stimulates jawbone growth and prevents bone atrophy and crooked teeth.
If you’ve left missing teeth untreated for a long time and your jawbone has already atrophied, you may need a bone graft before you can have dental implants placed. As long as you have enough bone (either natural or grafted), you should be able to get implants.
Dental Implants Can Be Made with Titanium or Zirconium Posts
While most dental implants are made with titanium posts and abutments, zirconium posts and abutments can be used for people who are sensitive to titanium or prefer not to have metal prostheses in their mouths. Like titanium, zirconia fuses with the jawbone (a process known as osseointegration) and stimulates jawbone growth.
When choosing between titanium and zirconium, there are a few things to keep in mind:
- The number of studies. There are more studies on the benefits, risks, and success rates of titanium implants because they have been used for around 50 years. Zirconium is a fairly new material in dentistry and less is known about its respective benefits and risks.
- Color. Zirconium does not cause the grayish discoloration that can occur with titanium.
- Implant stability. Zirconium displays higher implant stability than titanium.
- Resistance to fractures. Zirconium fractures more easily than titanium.
- Speed of osseointegration. The initial osseointegration takes longer with zirconium.
- Survival rate. Zirconium implants have a lower survival rate than titanium implants.
- Mixed implants. Zirconium-titanium implants offered the best results in all parameters except probing depth.
When choosing the material for your dental implants, it’s important to discuss the pros and cons of each option with your dentist. If you choose zirconium, you will need to take care not to put too much strain on your implants.
Dental Implants Take Four to Five Visits to Place
Because of the structure of dental implants and the fact that they are made just for you, they take four to five visits to place. The steps involved in the implant process generally include:
- Bone graft. If necessary, a bone graft will be performed so that there is sufficient jawbone to support an implant. Jawbone grafts need to heal for 4 months before a post can be implanted.
- Post placement. As soon as the bone is ready, the dentist will open the gum and implant the post into the jawbone. The post will then be left to fuse with the jawbone for 4-6 months. This process is known as osseointegration.
- Abutment. After the implant has fused with the bone, the gum will be reopened and the abutment placed on top of the post. The gum will then be left to heal completely, a process that typically takes 2 weeks.
- Impressions and color selection. Once the gum has healed, the dentist will take an impression of your upper and lower teeth. This impression will be sent off to the dental lab to make sure your new tooth is the right shape and size. At this appointment, you will also choose the color of your new tooth.
- Crown placement. After 2 more weeks, your customized porcelain crown will be ready and your dentist will fit it on top of the abutment. After a few days, your implant should feel and work like a regular tooth.
While posts and abutments can sometimes be placed at the same time, allowing the post to fuse completely with the bone is essential for a successful implant. The time that you spend going to the dental office and waiting for your mouth to heal will be well worth it for the durable, beautiful result that you’ll enjoy.
There are Certain Things You Must Do to Ensure the Success of Your Implants
Before having implants placed, you will need to stop smoking, cut down on alcohol, and abstain from certain medications, including antidepressants, painkillers, osteoporosis medications, chemotherapy drugs, and some other medications (check any medications and supplements you take with your dentist at the initial appointment).
It’s especially important to stop smoking before getting dental implants because smoking constricts blood flow to the gums and jaw and increases the chance of implant failure. At a minimum, you should stop at least one week before each surgery and continue to abstain for at least 2 to 3 months after the implant process is complete.
Once your implants have been topped with porcelain crowns, you won’t have to worry about tooth decay in the crowns. However, you will still need to brush and floss to prevent gum disease, infections, and implant failure.
If you do experience any discomfort, redness, or an awkward bite after your gums have healed, it’s essential to tell your dentist straight away so that any problems can be dealt with before they get worse.
High-Quality Dental Implants Can Transform Your Life
The most important thing to know when getting dental implants is that these prostheses will change your life. Once placed, you won’t have to worry about embarrassing gaps in your mouth, food getting stuck in your gums, or enduring the discomfort of dentures.
While the process of getting implants happens in stages and involves a few precautions on your part, the result is a new, near-permanent tooth or set of teeth that are beautiful, strong, and perfectly fitted to your mouth. Best of all, you’ll enjoy a significant boost in self-esteem and will be able to go about your daily activities with confidence. That’s something to smile about!
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