At one time, the only solution for tooth loss was to have dentures made. Today, there are other alternatives, such as dental implants. While this is a more expensive and lengthy procedure, it is also one that will give you the next best thing to your own natural teeth. Dental implants look and feel like the real thing, and you are able to eat anything that you could before.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant looks and feels just like a natural tooth. But, the visible part is made from polymer and resins, and the “root” is actually a titanium post. This post is surgically implanted under the gum line, and once everything has healed, the replacement teeth can be placed. During the healing process, the post will fuse to your jaw bone. Unlike traditional dentures, implanted teeth aren’t going to come loose, be prone to decay
What’s My Options for Dental Implants?
There are two types of dental implants that are recommended by the American Dental Association:
- Endosteal Implants – This type of implant are positioned right into the jawbone. Following the healing of the gum tissue, a second surgery is required to attach posts to the implants. The last step of this process is to attach the artificial teeth.
- Subperiosteal Implants – These implants have a metal frame which is fitted on the jawbone, and beneath the gum tissue. During the healing process, the frame will connect itself to the jawbone. The posts are already on the frame, so there is no need for a second surgery.
Dental Implant Care Begins Long Before Surgery
There is a lot involved in the process of getting dental implants, and the actual care begins long before you even have the surgery. Before you can get dental implants, you must have healthy gums and enough bone for the implant to be able to take. If you do not have enough bone, or if it is too soft for an implant to be stable, you may need to have bone graft surgery prior to getting implants. If you need implants for top teeth and there is not enough bone or your sinuses are close to your jaw, a sinus lift may be necessary.
Now, this may not make much sense, because if you didn’t have dental issues in the first place, you wouldn’t be considering implants, right? Yes, most people who get implants do have dental issues, but they take the necessary steps to be able to have this type of cosmetic dentistry work done. The first step is to be absolutely meticulous about your oral hygiene routine. You also need to visit your dentist regularly, to make sure that you are on the right track to getting your implants.
The Process, Whats Involved?
Yes, you are going to end up with a great looking smile. No, it is not going to happen overnight. The process of getting dental implants is a long one. For some, it may only take a couple of months. For others, it can take six months to a year or even longer. The length of time it takes to complete the process of dental implants depends on a number of factors, including the healing time.
Let’s start at the start. The first step of the process will be a dental examination and X-rays. Once the dentist is able to see the extent of the damage, they will be able to come up with the best plan of action to improve your oral health and give you a healthy looking smile. The following are some of the things you can expect throughout the process.
- Once your dentist determines that your mouth is ready to receive implants, the surgical procedures will begin. The first thing the dentist will do is to insert the implant posts into your jaw. To do this, they must cut the gums, and then drill into the jawbone. The implants are inserted, and then the area is stitched so you can’t see the implant at all.
- While the area is healing, you may be given a temporary denture to replace the missing teeth until you are able to get replacement teeth installed onto the posts. It can take many weeks, or even months for the implants to bond with the jawbone. The bond must be complete before new teeth can be placed over the posts. This insures that the implant is stable enough to function properly.
- The next step is another surgical procedure. The dentist will cut into the gums, and then place abutment connectors on top of the implant. The gums are then stitched closed so the connectors will stick out above the gums. This is what the replacement teeth will be attached to.
- Next, a rubber mold will be made of the abutment connector and the teeth around it (if there are teeth). If this is a full upper or lower set of teeth, the process is a bit different). An impression will be made of the teeth, and crowns will be customized to be placed over the connector, and between the other teeth. Once the gums have healed, the replacement teeth can be placed.
Caring for Your Mouth With Implants
While you are in the process of getting your dental implants, it is important to be diligent about your oral hygiene. It is especially important if you still have healthy teeth to take care of. You don’t want to end up losing those teeth as well and having to get more implants. In addition to regular dental care from your dentist, you still need to keep up with brushing, flossing, mouthwash, etc.
This is going to extend the life of your remaining teeth, and improve your oral health so the dental implants will take. While you are in the process of getting implants, the following oral hygiene steps must be taken:
- Regular Brushing – It is important to make sure that you keep your mouth free of bacteria that can lead to infections. Brushing after each meal and snack is going to make sure your mouth is clean. You also need to make sure that you clean the gums while they are healing. Talk to your dentist about the best type of toothbrush to use while you are in the process of getting dental implants.
- Flossing – If there are any remaining teeth, they need to be flossed as normal. This is going to get rid of a lot of particles that your toothbrush can’t reach. If you do not floss, food can remain between your teeth, and eventually this can lead to tooth decay. Then, you will have even more dental issues, and more implants could be necessary. Most dentists recommend unwaxed dental floss for those who are getting/have implants. Other options include a dental pick (a thin stream of water flosses the teeth), and dental tape.
- Mouthwash– It is a good idea to get into the habit of regularly using an anti-bacterial mouthwash. There are now mouthwashes that have all of the antibacterial properties you need, but do not contain alcohol. They taste fresh, and not only do they help keep bacteria at bay, they also make your breath smell clean and fresh.
What About After Surgery Care?
Immediately following your dental surgeries, you will likely be drowsy. You will be required to have a designated person to drive you home, and your dentist may also require that you have someone with you for 48 hours following surgery. You cannot drive for at least 24 hours after having any type of surgery.
Until your mouth begins to heal, your dentist may recommend that you only eat liquids and soft foods. This is not because food will damage the implants, but to help alleviate any discomfort you may have when eating solid foods. It will also help with the healing process if you aren’t eating foods that can irritate the gums.
Make sure that you go to all follow-up appointments after the implant procedure. There may also be instances when you need to see your dentist between scheduled visits. These instances can include:
- Bleeding or heavy draining of pus from the gums
- Extreme pain that does not respond to medication
- Difficulty biting and chewing
- Swelling that doesn’t go away after a few days
In extreme cases, there can be reactions to the anesthesia, implants, etc. These include:
- Swelling of the tongue or in the mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty breathing
Caring For Your New Dental Implants
Just because implants are not real teeth, it doesn’t mean that you can neglect your oral hygiene routine. Even if you have had all of your teeth replaced, you still have to consider the health of your gums. When properly cared for, dental implants can last for a lifetime. The crowns may need to be replaced every 10 to 15 years, but the implants themselves will last forever. They require the same basic care as natural teeth.
- Brush at least twice daily
- Floss with Reach dental floss at least once daily
- Have regular dental cleanings, checkups, etc.
Good oral hygiene is always important, for your dental implants, your remaining natural teeth if any, and for your gums. If you are not brushing and flossing regularly, it is all too easy to end up with infections. When you have oral health issues, it can eventually lead to problems with your health in general. The better you care for your mouth, the healthier you will be overall.
Let’s Talk About Flossing
It’s so important if you are not flossing you are not getting rid of all of the bacteria in your mouth. The remaining food can lead to bacteria, which can in turn lead to infections. The main problems can be mucositis and peri-implantitis, and you could be susceptible to both if you do not take oral hygiene seriously.
One way to tell if you have mucositis is if there is any bleeding around the gums around the dental implants. This is an early sign, and if you notice it, you need to see your dentist right away in order to treat it properly before it gets to the point where it is beyond treatment. If you do not receive treatment, it can lead to bone loss or peri-implantitis. There is no way to treat or repair this issue, and it can eventually lead to advanced bone loss. When this happens, the dental implants must be removed.
How Long Dose It Take To Floss?
You might be asking how do I properly floss and do you still need to brush your teeth? In short the answer is yes, proper dental hygiene and flossing only takes a minute or two, but it can add years to the health of your mouth, along with proper dental care from a dentist. You can use a dental water pick, traditional unwaxed dental floss, or even Reach dental tape, which can pull away a lot of plaque and bacteria.
A dental floss water pick is great because there is no actual floss. It is just an extremely fine stream of water directed at the areas between your teeth.Click edit button to change this text.
It is a good idea to speak with your dentist about the best way to care for your new implants, now, and for the rest of your life. Make sure that you continue with your regular dental visits every three to six months. That way, if any new dental health issues arise, they can be dealt with in the very early stages.
It is also important to have dental X-rays at least once each year. This will let your dentist know if there are any issues with the dental implants. They will look for the fit, as well as your bite to make sure that the implants are working as they should.
As you can see, there is a lot more to getting dental implants than just having them put in and never worrying about your dental health again. Yes, implants are just like natural teeth, but they don’t come loose or decay. But, they still need to be cared for just as natural teeth do. Otherwise, you could end up with a lot of dental issues that can lead to bone loss. When this happens and you need to have the implants removed, you will be back to having no teeth, and you will have wasted a lot of money.