Advances in dentistry have always been a source for excitement but none compare to dental implants in terms of replacing missing teeth. Oh there have always been dentures, even George Washington had them in the 1700s, but they were a poor substitute for teeth then and remain as such today. Even partials and bridges which allow you to keep your existing teeth have their down sides. Partials, they come in and out, and bridges can still get food under them and be a pain to clean. Both often require altering the existing teeth in order to replace a missing tooth. Without a doubt, dental implants offer the best way to replace missing teeth.
Parts of a Dental Implant
A dental implant is composed of three basic parts. There is the dental implant itself, which is a titanium fixture that is screwed into the bone replacing the root of the tooth that is missing. The second part of a dental implant, the abutment, is screwed down into the implant itself. The abutment attaches to the top of the implant allowing the third part of a dental implant, the crown, to be cemented over the abutment. Sure, there are some variations to this theme, but with this basic concept you can understand dental implants.
Single Tooth Replacements
Replacing a single missing tooth with a dental implant is often the easiest treatment option. For example, I can often extract a tooth and place the dental implant and a temporary crown in a single visit. The way we start all our patients is in the diagnostic phase. In this diagnostic phase, we take digital x-rays and do a through clinical evaluation. We then provide an expert explanation of your case diagnosis, provide treatment options and a clear financial overview of your treatment options.
Often dental implants require cone bean CT scans to determine how and where to place a dental implant. It used to be that CT’s were big, expensive diagnostic procedures. Today that is not the case. We refer our patients to Wilson Radiographic, a local imaging center, where patients set up an appointment time and are in and out in about 30 minutes. The cost is very nominal and the information gained is phenomenal! With a cone beam CT I can plan your dental implant case on a computer in 3D! This information can then be used to develop a surgical guide which ensures the location of the surgical placement of the implant! This is essential in many cases where space is limited or sinus lifts are required.
Some dental implants do require sinus lifts or bone grafts in order to place the implant in healthy bone. A sinus lift allows us to place an implant up into the maxillary sinus cavity by first “lifting” the floor of the sinus cavity with a bone graft. Some sinus lifts are complicated and require the services of anoral surgeon and IV sedation. Other sinus lifts can be accomplished in our office with relative ease using just local anesthetic. A cone beam CT is often necessary in differentiating what needs to be done to place the implant.
In the surgical phase of a dental implant, we anesthetize or numb the area where the tooth is coming out and the dental implant is going in. The patient is awake, we talk to you to let you know what to expect and what we are doing next. We extract the tooth if it is not already missing. Patients tell me this is often the hardest part. We then prepare the hole for the dental implant which is called an osteotomy. The implant is treaded down into the hole in much the same way as a bolt is threaded into a hole. We try to seat the implant into solid healthy bone to provide initial stability. Sometimes bone graft material is required to fill in the extra space providing good solid bone around your implant.
Once the implant is placed we can attach a healing abutment or a temporary abutment to the implant and even put on a temporary crown. We adjust the crown so that the patient is able to chew and smile. Typically patients report very little discomfort from the implant site. Most report it was less than when the tooth was extracted. Significant pain at an implant site is usually a sign of trouble, which needs the attention of the doctor as soon as possible.
We usually see the patent back in one week to remove any stitches and to check on healing. The normal healing time is eight weeks. If the implant placement required extensive grafting or sinus lifts, the healing time is increased. Often the patient is in a temporary crown so the world does not even know that the tooth is missing!
During the healing phase, the bone around the implant is growing solidly to the implant itself, locking it in. This is called osseo-integration. Once the implant is integrated into the bone it is ready to make the final restoration. To make the final restoration we make an impression of your teeth including the implant and send it to the lab for processing. It takes the lab about 10 working days to make the final crown. Once it is ready we remove the temporary abutment and crown and place the final abutment and crown.
Every patients experience with dental implants is different. Most are just excited to have their tooth back and be able to smile. Other patients notice increased chewing efficiency and an overall stabilizing of their mouths because they can chew on both sides. Other patients say that the implant tooth is better than the tooth it replaced because it is not hot or cold sensitive and they can eat anything they want. Patients are relieved to have their tooth back in the form of a dental implant that does not come in or out!
Our practice is always striving to make happy, healthy smiles. Dental implants are a vital part of realizing that goal for our patients. If you would like to learn more about dental implants or Dr. Seume and his dental team visit us at www.hitchcockdental.com and click on Implant Information under Patient Information. You can also call, 409-986-6018, or come the office at 8022 Hwy 6. The coffee is always fresh.