According to the American Dental Association, more than 5 million dental implant procedures are done every year to restore the appearance and function of damaged teeth. While getting an implant is more involved than other types of tooth repair or replacement, the results can be natural-looking and highly functional.
Replacements for broken, damaged or severely decayed teeth
Sometimes teeth are broken severely enough that traditional repair methods such as veneers and bonding are not appropriate. Other types of damage or severe decay can result in tooth loss as well. Dental implants address these issues without the need for fixed bridges or removable dentures. Here is what every prospective patient should know about dental implants.
1. The “implant" is not the tooth
The “implant” in dental implants refers to the artificial root that is placed into the jawbone. Typically, these roots are made of titanium. This sturdy metal resists external forces well so that implant fractures are rarely a concern. Titanium dental implants were first used in 1965, according to an overview in the Open Dentistry Journal, so they have a long track record for restoring dental function, appearance and health. Once the root has bonded sufficiently with the bone, a permanent porcelain crown designed to match a healthy, natural tooth is placed on top.
2. The process of getting dental implants is done in phases
Since the artificial roots of dental implants must bond with the jawbone itself, the full implant process may take several months from start to finish. However, while the process of getting dental implants takes time, the replacement teeth look and function almost exactly like healthy, natural teeth, so many people find it to be time well spent.
3. The most common reasons for getting them
Sometimes people are born without certain teeth, and a dental implant makes a natural-looking replacement. People also get implants when one or more teeth are lost or extracted due to extensive decay, injury or infection. Implants may replace a single tooth or multiple teeth, whether they are all located adjacent to each other or distributed throughout the mouth.
4. How to prepare for the implant process
Some patients are prescribed antibiotics or special antibacterial mouth rinses to use in the days leading up to implant surgery. Oral surgeons typically advise patients to arrange for transportation home after the implant procedure and to take the day off work to help minimize discomfort. Patients should follow their specific instructions carefully to help ensure the success of the procedure and a quicker recovery.
5. How to care for dental implants
Caring for the crowns attached to the implants is essentially the same as caring for natural teeth. Twice-daily brushing, daily flossing and regular dental checkups help ensure a better appearance and dental health with both implants and natural teeth. Some dentists also recommend regular use of an oral irrigator to help keep teeth and gums healthy.
Getting a dental implant is an increasingly popular way to replace lost or damaged teeth. Though the process takes time, it typically does not have to be repeated, so implants are considered to be a permanent tooth replacement solution.
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