What Are Dental Implants?
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are threaded titanium fixtures which are inserted into the mouth to replace missing single teeth, multiple missing teeth, and even support dentures. Implants look and feel like natural teeth!
Does it hurt?
Oftentimes patients experience little to no discomfort from implant placement. There are no nerves in bone, so there is no pain from the preparation. There may be some mild discomfort where the tissues are pouched open, but this is temporary in nature. Immediately implants (implants placed at the same time as the extraction) can be uncomfortable in the early days of healing, but this too subsides quickly. Patients are usually under-whelmed by the whole process, and after having one placed will recommend them to their family and friends.
Implants come in may different sizes in terms of length and diameter. As a general rule the larger the implant you can have placed the better is the long term success rate of your implant.
How implants are placed
When you are missing a tooth, the first thing we do is pouch open the tissue, similar to peeking into an envelope, so we can visualize the bony ridge.
We then make a very precise hole in the bone. This does not hurt. There are no nerves in bone.
In that precise hole we place the implant. The implant is made of titanium, and titanium is unique in that it is very kind and compatible with bony tissue. Most people think bone is like cement, or like a rock. It is not. Bone is a living tissue which is always tearing itself down and building itself back up.
What is special about titanium is that it has a stimulatory effect on this bone turnover. The bone turnover is higher around the implant than it is even around a natural tooth. What this means to you (the patient) is the bone will grow into the implant threads and into any irregularities in the implant. In this way the implant becomes fused (integrated) into the jaw.
After the implant has been allowed to integrate (time may vary) you will return to your general dentist where they will place a post, and they will make a crown.
What you have is a one-to-one replacement. You are missing one tooth, you replace it with one tooth. The only difference is that instead of being made of dentin, you have a tooth that’s made of titanium.
The alternative to an implant is a bridge. With a bridge you have to cut down two perfectly good teeth to try and suspend a fake tooth in mid-air. The problem with a bridge is the literature shows that half of all bridges need to be replace within 12 years, whereas an implant is generally considered to be more of a permanent restoration. Implants are more conservative because the adjacent teeth don’t need to be cut down.
The other alternative to implants are removable partial dentures. These replace the teeth that are missing, and keep the teeth that are good. The problem is that there are often large, bulky bars, straps, and clasps which fill up your mouth. Also, you have to take these out at night.