Your teeth are designed to work together to help you chew, speak and smile. When teeth are missing, it makes it difficult to perform even these simple functions. Even the loss of a back tooth may cause your mouth to shift and your facial features to change. Fortunately missing teeth can be replaced.
A dental implant can be thought of as an artificial tooth root that is submerged into the jawbone. Dental implants not only look natural but they feel and function like a natural tooth.
A dental implant offers a number of advantages over traditional tooth replacement such as bridges or removable dentures. In addition to looking and functioning like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of neighbouring teeth.
Because a dental implant will replace your tooth root, the bone surrounding the area is better preserved. With a bridge, some of the bone that previously surrounded the tooth begins to resorb (deteriorate). Dental implants integrate with your jawbone, helping to keep the bone healthy and intact.
In the long term, a single implant can be more aesthetic and easier to keep clean than a bridge. Gums can recede around a bridge, leaving a visible defect when the metal base or collar of the bridge becomes exposed. Resorbed bone beneath the bridge can lead to an unattractive smile. Bridges often need to be replaced and can lead to more complications in the long term. Similar complications exist with removable dentures. Given the potential complications these options can become more costly in the long-run, particularly for patients who receive replacements earlier in life.
First, the implant, which looks like a screw or cylinder, is placed into your jaw. Over the next two to six months, the implant and the bone are allowed to bond together to form an anchor for your artificial tooth. During this time, a temporary tooth replacement option can be worn over the implant site.
Often, a second step of the procedure is necessary to uncover the implant and attach an extension. This temporary healing cap completes the foundation on which your new tooth will be placed. Your gums will be allowed to heal for a couple of weeks following this procedure.
Finally, a replacement tooth called a crown will be created for you by your dentist and attached to a small metal post, called an abutment. After a short time, you will experience restored confidence in your smile and your ability to chew and speak. Dental implants are so natural-looking and feeling, you may forget you ever lost a tooth.