Nothing can take the place of a healthy set of natural teeth. But what disease or an accident ends in tooth loss, it's good to know that there are options for restoring your smiles. You may want to choose dental implants if you:

  • are self conscious because you have missing teeth
  • wear dentures that are uncomfortable for you
  • are unsatisfied with your removable partial dentures
  • do not want to have intact took structure removed to have a fixed bridge placed

Many patients choose implants to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or to support a full set of dentures. Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth. they are made of titanium (a strong, lightweight metal) and other materials that are accepted by the human body.

Implants are a popular and effective way to replace missing teeth. The development and use of implants has been one of the biggest advances in dentistry in the past 40 years. U.S. dentists place more than 5.5 million implants annually.

What's Involved?

The first step in implants treatment is talking with your dentist. He or she can help you decide whether implant treatment is right for you. There are many different kinds of implants. Treatment can take only one day, or it can take several months, or somewhere in between. Your dentist can outline a treatment plan that is most likely to be successful for you.

There are three general phases of implant treatment:

1. Placement of the implant

The dentist surgically places the implant into the jawbone. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after the surgery, so pain medication is usually prescribes to ease the discomfort. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods, cold foods and warm soup during the healing process.

2. The Healing Process

What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. This process is called osseointegration, meaning "combines with the bone." Osseointegration takes time. Some patients may need to wait until the implant is completed integrated, up to several months, before replacement teeth can be attached to the implant. Other patients can have the implants and replacement teeth placed all in one visit.

3. Placement of the Prosthesis (artificial tooth or teeth)

For a single tooth implant, the dentist custom-makes a new tooth for you, called a dental crown. It is based on a size, shape, color and fit that will blend with your other teeth. implant-supported bridges or dentures are also made to fit your mouth and your implants. Once completed, the man-made teeth are attached to the implant posts.

The prosthesis usually takes some time to make. In the meantime, your dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture. This can help you eat and speak normally until the permanent replacement is ready.

Textual information from the American Dental Association. Used with permission.