Implants can successfully replace missing teeth and feel like real teeth. The process involves placing a titanium metal tooth root replacement in the jawbone with an in-office surgical procedure. The implant is allowed to heal in the jawbone for 4 – 6 months, and then has an abutment post and crown placed on it. During the healing phase, the bone actually grows into and bonds to the implant, creating a very stable anchor for the final crown.
The implant placement surgery is done by an oral surgeon or periodontist, who has specific training in the safe, accurate and successful placement of the implant. After the healing time, the patient returns to our office to have an abutment post and crown placed. This usually takes about 2 – 3 visits over 3-4 weeks time.
When a tooth needs to be extracted due to infection or a fractured tooth root, the area may need to heal for 3-4 months before an implant can be placed, so there will be a time when no tooth is present in the mouth. During this time, the patient may have a temporary removable appliance with a false tooth on it. These appliances, often called “flippers,” or “the party tooth,” are typically good for an esthetic result, but will not give the chewing function that the final implant crown will provide.
Implants may be used to replace multiple missing teeth, and may be used to anchor a denture in place so that it will not cause irritation in the mouth.
Implants have now been a highly successful, tried-and-true procedure for the past 20 years or more. Still, there are places where implants cannot be used, such as in areas that have inadequate jawbone, or if the patient is a smoker or has diabetes.
We will be happy to discuss any further options that may be appropriate for our patients with missing teeth.