Implant Dentistry (Implant Surgery, Implant Crowns/Bridges, Bone Grafting)

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Dental implants allow you to replace your missing teeth in a way that most closely resembles your natural teeth. Replacing teeth with implants also avoids the disadvantages of replacing teeth with fixed bridges (damage to adjacent teeth) or partial dentures (bone resorption). A dental implant consists of 2 separate parts: the dental implant that is placed inside the bone (this resembles a root of a tooth), and the crown, bridge, or denture that the implant supports:

There are several phases involved in replacing teeth with dental implants:

1.Extraction: Unless your tooth has already been missing for 6 months or longer, you will need to have your compromised tooth removed, and the implant can be placed 4-6 months later, after the bone heals. Some circumstances allow the implant to be placed immediately (the day of extraction). Other times, you may require a bone graft to preserve or re-build an optimal amount of bone prior to implant placement.

2. Implant placement (surgery): Once the bone/graft has healed, you are ready for the implant to be placed into your jawbone. Sometimes, you will need to have a CT scan done prior to implant surgery. A CT scan is a 3-dimensional x-ray that helps us see exactly how much bone is available, and to make sure that the implant is not placed near a nerve or sinus. Once the implant is placed, it needs 4-6 months to heal and integrate into your bone.

3. Uncovering the implant: This step is only necessary if your implant was fully covered by gum tissue during implant placement (at surgeon’s discretion for optimal results). This is a small surgery that reveals part of the implant to allow us to connect a crown/bridge to it. Once your gums heal (1-2 weeks), you will be ready to have your crown/bridge placed.

4. Placing a Crown/Bridge: We will take imprints or “impressions” of your teeth, and a dental laboratory will fabricate a crown/bridge to fit perfectly and match the color of the rest of your teeth.

Bone Grafting:

There are specific requirements regarding the amount of bone needed to optimally place an implant into the jawbone. If you do not have an adequate amount of bone, you will require grafting to re-build an optimal amount. Most bone grafts require 4-6 months to mature prior to surgically placing a dental implant. If you require extensive bone grafting, you will most likely require a CT scan (a 3-dimensional x-ray) to help us determine how much bone you need.

Risks:
Excessive bleeding during surgery: Rarely a problem unless you have a bleeding disorder or are taking blood thinners. Be sure to tell our dentists about any medical conditions, or medications/supplements you may be taking.

Post-operative infection: Rarely a problem if you follow post-operative instructions and take all the medications/antibiotics prescribed to you. If you develop a post-operative infection, you may need to have the procedure re-done at no additional cost.

Implant failure: The success of dental implants is documented to be well over 95%, and failure occurs very rarely. Implant failure is most likely to happen within the first 2-6 weeks after surgical implant placement, or shortly after placing the implant crown/bridge. In the unlikely event of implant failure, your treatment will be re-done at no additional cost. If your first implant fails, it does NOT mean that the second implant will be pre-disposed to failure!

Nerve injury (lower jaw only): The lower jaw contains nerves responsible for sensation of your lower jaw, lip, chin, and tongue. In exceptionally rare cases, these nerves may be damaged during implant or graft placement. This may cause residual tingling/numbness/altered sensation in your lower lip/chin and/or tongue that is usually temporary, but may be permanent. This will NOT affect movement of your lip/tongue as in eating, smiling, etc. If we suspect a high risk for nerve injury, we will refer you for a CT scan (3-dimensional x-ray) and/or an oral and maxillofacial surgeon for further evaluation before any procedures.

Alternatives:

Fixed Bridges: A fixed bridge may be an alternative way of replacing missing teeth, however it is associated with several disadvantages over implants.

Removable Dentures: A removable denture is a cost-effective alternative to implants for the replacement of missing teeth. However, it resembles natural teeth the least and is also associated with several disadvantages over dental implants.