Dental implants are posts made of medical-grade metal and implanted into the jawbone where they act as “roots” to support an artificial tooth or crown. Implants may also be used to support dentures. Advances in implant techniques and materials in recent years have made implants an increasingly popular option among men and women missing one or more teeth.
Dental implants usually take three or more visits to complete. During the first office visit, the post is implanted into the jawbone. If the bone is very thin, a bone graft procedure may also be performed, usually at the same time as the post-implantation. During a bone graft, a small portion of bone is removed from elsewhere in the mouth or a graft from a tissue bank may be used. The graft is implanted against the existing bone to provide more support for the implant post. once the post is in place, it’s allowed to fuse with the bone for several weeks before the second appointment. This process is called osseointegration. At the second appointment, a second piece called an abutment is attached to the post and an impression is made and sent to the lab where the crown will be created and tinted to match neighboring teeth. During the third office visit, the crown will be attached to the abutment then gently shaped for a comfortable fit.
Because they’re implanted into the bone, dental implants tend to be more comfortable and natural-feeling compared to dentures or bridges, and they also won’t slip or create sore spots like dentures can. More importantly, because the implant is embedded in the bone, it supports the natural bone replacement cycle to keep the jaw healthy and prevent bone atrophy that can contribute to the loss of additional teeth. Dentures and bridges rest on top of the gums and cannot stimulate the production of new, healthy bone, which means additional tooth loss is more likely.
With regular brushing and flossing and routine trips to the dentist to keep the surrounding gums healthy, an implant can last as long as a natural tooth.