Losing a permanent tooth often feels, well, permanent. After all, nothing’s going to grow back to fill in the gap. But today, you have a variety of options to replace that tooth. Dental implants are just one option, but they offer the most natural replacement for an adult tooth, allowing you to treat your prosthetic tooth just like any other member of the “tooth family” in your mouth.
To help you better understand your choices, and how dental implants can help you find your smile again, we’re going to take a comprehensive dive into what exactly dental implants are, how they are installed, and the benefits and drawbacks of the procedure.
What is a dental implant?
The most permanent option to replace a lost tooth, a dental implant is designed to last as long (if not longer) as your natural teeth.
To do that, implants mimic nature. Just like your teeth, they feature a root that reaches through the gum to attach to your jaw to give it strength. On top of that, the crown, or artificial tooth, is attached. Each of these pieces is designed using modern, durable materials, like titanium, that allow the implant to last a lifetime.
How dental implants are installed
Installing an implant requires multiple trips to the dentist.
First, your dentist or specialist will examine your mouth and take X-rays to make get a clearer picture of what’s happening, and determine if you’re a good candidate for an implant. Next, your dentist will insert a titanium post below the gumline, sew up the gums, then wait for your gums and jaw to heal.
Once your mouth is healed, your dentist will add an abutment to that post (which will allow them to attach the crown of your new tooth in the future), which will again need time to heal. While waiting for your mouth to heal around the abutment, a custom crown matching the colour and bite of your natural teeth with be created.
When your crown is ready and your mouth is healed, your dentist will attach your permanent crown to your tooth.
After your implant is successfully installed, your dentist may take some time (and get you to come in for extra visits) to ensure it is comfortable and that your bite is correct.
Benefits of dental implants
- Offers a permanent solution
- Requires little to no special care
- Functions and looks like a natural tooth
Drawbacks of dental implants
- Requires surgery
- A more expensive tooth replacement procedure
Types of dental implants
There are two main types of implants:
- Single tooth implants
- Fixed bridge implants
A single tooth implant fits one crown to one implanted post to replace a single tooth. However, if multiple teeth are missing, dentists may choose to use a fixed bridge implant. Using this technique, a dentist can replace multiple teeth using only two implant posts. Much like with a regular bridge, a dentist will create a set of artificial teeth that are attached to each other. They will then install a post at either end of the gap in your teeth and attach the bridge to the posts.
Using just four posts, a dentist can install a set of dentures that covers a full set of upper or lower teeth.