That missing tooth not only leaves a gap in your smile, it can also impact your confidence and health. There are many replacement options available, but most are less than ideal for one reason or another. Most likely, you just want your real tooth back. While that is not yet possible, dental implants are the next best thing. Triad Dentistry is an experienced dentist offering several options at his practice in Greensboro, NC, near Charlotte, Raleigh, Reidsville, Mebane, Winston-Salem, Durham, and Eden.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root. In appearance, implants resemble screws, though you will never see them once treatment is complete. They are surgically placed in the bone, creating a strong bond over time. This creates a sturdy, reliable foundation for custom-made crowns or other specially designed restorations.
The idea of dental implants is as old as civilization. Archeologists have found evidence of “teeth” made from materials such as shell, that were pounded into the jawbones of subjects. These primitive implants almost certainly failed more often than not, because the human body rejects foreign materials. It was not until the 1950s that dentists discovered the first truly reliable implant material and began refining the process.
Dental implant treatment has been widely used for decades, with an excellent record of safety, success, and patient satisfaction. Today, it is considered the gold standard treatment for replacing any number of missing teeth. Over three million Americans currently have at least one dental implant, and that number grows by more than half a million every year.
Why choose dental implants
The benefits of dental implants are countless, including:
- Better oral health – If a missing tooth is not replaced, nearby teeth will begin shifting toward the gap. Furthermore, the bone in that area begins deteriorating (resorbing), due to lack of a tooth root. Any method of tooth replacement will help prevent shifting. However, only implants can replace the root, therefore preserving bone health.
- Comfort and confidence – No one likes the look or feel of a missing tooth. A denture or bridge can help but may feel bulky or unnatural. Additionally, removable dentures can slip or fall out while you are talking, eating, or laughing. Only implants replicate the complete structure of an actual tooth. They look and feel natural, and they are just as stable as a healthy tooth.
- Convenient care – Standard dentures are removed for cleaning and during sleep. You need a denture bath to soak them, a special brush to clean them, and possibly denture adhesive to keep them in place. Bridges are permanently attached, but that brings its own set of problems because you need to clean between the false tooth and the gum. This usually requires use of a special tool such as a floss threader. Implants have none of these challenges. You will need to brush and floss them, just like your natural teeth. That’s it!
- Longevity – Most dental restorations have a limited life expectancy, requiring replacement after several years. Standard dentures often need frequent adjustments or relining, in order to adapt to the changing gumline. Dental implants are among the most durable restorations available. If you take care of them and maintain good oral health, they may last for the rest of your life.
The ideal candidate for dental implants
If you have lost one or more secondary (adult) teeth, or if you have any teeth requiring extraction, you are probably an implant candidate. The procedure is not appropriate for children. If a primary (baby) tooth is lost, your dentist may recommend a space maintainer. However, a secondary tooth will eventually emerge in that spot, so permanent replacement is not needed. For teenagers who have lost secondary teeth, implants are a viable option. However, we need to wait until the oral structure is fully developed, which usually occurs around age 16 to 18. There is not an upper age limit.
Before recommending implants, Dr. Hatcher will perform an examination and review your medical history. As long as you are healthy enough for minor surgery, implants should be a viable option. Individuals with naturally thin jawbones, or those who have experienced significant bone loss in the area, may need a prerequisite grafting procedure. If applicable, this will be discussed during your initial consultation.
Options in dental implant treatment
Like all treatments in our office, dental implants begin with a one-on-one consultation. Dr. Hatcher will perform an examination and discuss your options. He offers traditional bridges and dentures for patients who aren’t healthy enough for surgery, or those who prefer not to get implants. During your consultation, he will discuss the pros and cons of each option and explain what to expect.
If you choose dental implants, there are two options:
- Standard implants – These are similar in size to a tooth root, and they need time to fuse with the bone. Generally, the implant surgery is performed and then you will need to wait a few months before restorations are added.
- Mini implants – As the name suggests, these are smaller than the traditional style. The unique design has several advantages. Because they need a smaller area of jawbone, some patients can avoid grafting. Additionally, in most cases the restoration can be added the same day that the implant is placed.
Is bone grafting necessary before dental implant placement?
Gum disease is the leading cause of adult tooth loss in America. In the advanced stages, it also attacks the bone tissue. Once a tooth is lost, bone deterioration continues, because there is no root to stimulate healthy tissue regeneration. For these and other reasons, some people have a small amount of bone tissue in the area where implants need to be placed.
For some patients, grafting can be avoided by using mini implants, because they require less bone. However, even with their smaller size, mini implants still need a certain amount of strong, healthy bone. Additionally, some people aren’t good candidates for mini implants. Thankfully, bone grafting is a minor, predictable procedure with a low risk of complications. Bone tissue may be taken from another area of the body or grafting material may be used. It may take a few weeks or months for the graft to fully incorporate into the bone, at which time implant placement can proceed.
Full sized dental implant procedure
Once pre-requisite treatment such as bone grafting (if needed) is complete, we are ready to place the dental implants. Standard implant treatment is a two-stage process.
The first stage of implant treatment is placement:
- First, the area is numbed completely, to ensure your comfort.
- Your dentist will create a tiny incision in the gums, allowing access to the bone.
- A special type of drill is used to create a small opening in the bone tissue.
- The implant is added, and a healing abutment is added.
- The gums are closed with sutures.
- If multiple implants are placed, the process is repeated.
- Soft tissue normally heals very quickly, so post-surgery discomfort is short-lived. However, it can take a few months for bone tissue to fuse with the implant.
Once the bone is fully healed, we complete the second stage, which may involve a few appointments:
- Again, the treatment area is thoroughly numbed before we begin.
- Gums are re-opened with a small incision, which exposes the implant. (if a healing abutment with an exposed collar was used, this step is not necessary).
- Your dentist will take impressions and design the custom restoration, which is then created by a laboratory.
- The final step is verifying the fit and appearance of the restoration, and then attaching it to the implant.
Same day dental implant procedure
Often, mini implants can be placed and restored in the same appointment.
- Like the standard procedure, we start by numbing the area. Patient comfort and safety are always our top priorities.
- Your dentist will pierce the gum tissue and create a tiny opening in the bone.
- The implant is screwed into the bone and tightened. There is usually no need to add an abutment, because it is incorporated into the design of most mini implants.
- The process is repeated as needed for placement of multiple implants. For securing a full denture, four or six implants are normally used.
- Due to the size and design of these implants, it is usually possible to add the restoration immediately, so you leave our office with a complete smile.
Dr. Steven Hatcher
Dr. Hatcher is a passionate and driven professional who strives to preserve and enhance natural beauty in every dental treatment. He is keen on developing an individualist approach when it comes to treating his patients to ensure patient care is a tailor-made experience for the comfort of each client.
Why choose Triad Dentistry
Dr. Hatcher and his team share a deep dedication to excellence and take great care to perform precision procedures. With state-of-the-art technology and extensive experience in implantology, you can rest assured that your new smile is in qualified hands. We offer full sized as well as mini implants, with options for replacing one, several, or all your teeth. Sedation is also available for patients who might need a little help relaxing during the procedure.
If you think that dental implant treatment may be right for you