What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a screw made out of titanium that sits in the jaw where a tooth root used to be. The screw acts as a replacement for that tooth root. It’s slightly hollow so that a post with a special connecting point — called an ‘abutment’ — can be placed into it.
A restoration then connects to this abutment. This restoration might be a single crown, a bridge, or even a full set of dentures.
What Happens Before the Procedure
Before the procedure, we will take you through a thorough dental exam at either of our NW Calgary offices. We will also customize a treatment plan based on the condition of your jawbone and how many dental implants will be inserted.
Because precise placement is required to ensure the implants work effectively, we use computer-guided technologies to digitally plan our implant placements. This gives us accurate, predictable, reliable results when it comes time for surgery.
Once all the planning has been finalized, it’s time for the actual implant procedure.
How the Procedure Goes
- We make a model of your bite by taking impressions of your teeth. The crown we will attach to your implant is created using this model. The new tooth will also match the colour of your natural teeth.
- The implant is surgically inserted into the bone socket of the missing tooth.
- The tooth is attached to the implant using a small connector post, or abutment, which secures the tooth. Some patients are able to have this done during the same appointment after inserting the implant. Others may be required to wait until after the jawbone heals and grows around the implant, which takes anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. We are confident in the quick healing that our Dentrix procedure provides, so although our patients vary in healing time, your healing time will be quicker than at other dentists in NW Calgary.
There will be some post-operative pain and discomfort for 2-5 days afterwards. How intense it is, and how long it lasts, will depend a great deal on
- how many implants are placed at the time
- whether you got a bone graft as well
This discomfort is managed with over-the-counter medication and is generally well-managed by most patients.
Benefits of Dental Implants
The biggest benefit of dental implants is restoring the overall function of a missing tooth in a way that other processes simply can’t.
Teeth are important. They help us chew, eat, and talk. Everyone knows this. But what’s less commonly realised is that they also help shape our whole face.
Many people are familiar with the classic image of an elderly person whose mouth seems to have shrunk under their nose. This is because they’re missing most, or all, of their teeth and their jaw bones have shrunken considerably. But why does the jaw do this?
Our bodies are constantly creating and reabsorbing cells, so we’re always changing in subtle ways. It’s why we look different as we get older. So when we extract teeth, we leave gaps not just between the teeth, but in the bone where a tooth root used to be. Because our bodies are changing and shifting, these gaps start to close.
Because dental implants replace missing tooth roots, they help maintain the shape and functionality of our jaws. There are plenty of options for restoring the crown of a tooth, but only a dental implant gets down to the root.
Really, it’s the closest thing you can have to a real tooth in your mouth.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
Failure rates for dental implants are around 2% over 20 years. If you take good care of them and maintain good oral hygiene, they should last the rest of your life.
Rejection of the implant is very uncommon, but can happen in people with rare titanium allergies. It’s estimated that maybe 4% of people have an adverse reaction to titanium. If you suspect you have an allergy, consult with your dentist first.
Other Uses of Dental Implants
Dental implants aren’t just great for restoring a single missing tooth. They can also be used to support or stabilize a variety of dental restorations. This allows you to restore your mouth without replacing each individual tooth with an implant.
Two or three implants, for example, can be used to support a bridge. These replace a row of one or more missing teeth.
Four to eight implants can be used to support a full denture, upper and lower. This allows you to replace an entire row of missing teeth on as few as four dental implants.
Who Can get Dental Implants?
There’s no real age limit on who can get dental implants. The only age-related criteria is that you must be missing a permanent tooth to get an implant. There’s no point permanently replacing a milk tooth, they’re meant to fall out!
Otherwise, in terms of age, patients even into their 80s and 90s have successfully received and maintained dental implants. Young patients who have lost teeth are also suitable. It’s more dependant on the health of your mouth than your age.
Health wise, there are a few considerations. If you have good oral health and sufficient bone volume to support the implant, you’re typically a good candidate.
However, contra-indicators for dental implants include:
- Dental implants fail four times as often in smokers as non-smokers. Smoking also greatly increased the risk of gum disease, which can be disastrous in conjunction with intense oral surgery.
- Severe gum disease and periodontitis. The implant needs a healthy oral environment or won’t be well accepted by the body.
- Diabetes, heart disease, and other conditions which might increase the risk of gum disease or put you at risk during surgeries.
- Insufficient bone volume. If the tooth has been out of the jaw for too long and the bone has shrunk, there may not be enough bone to support the implant itself. It can be possible to get bone grafts for some patients.
How to Take Care of Your Dental Implants
The great thing about dental implants is that they feel and look just like natural teeth! So caring for your implants is the same as normal dental hygiene: you’ll need to brush, floss, and have dental checkups regularly. In addition, we will explain which dental tools and toothpastes best preserve your implants.
With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime! Remember that it’s okay to be nervous about dental implants. Our staff in NW Calgary will be with you step-by-step throughout the process and can answer any questions you have.
Dental Implants FAQ
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root made out of titanium. It goes into the jaw and supports a restoration on top.
Titanium is a biocompatible metal that isn’t readily corroded or rejected by the body. It’s sturdy and long-lasting, making it a popular choice for medical use.
Are there alternatives to titanium?
Over the last few years, zirconium implants have been approved for use in the US. If you have a titanium allergy, this might be your best bet.
How long will my implant last?
With proper care, your implant should last a lifetime! Failure rates over two decades are as low as 2%.
Will I/others notice the implant?
No. The implant is hidden inside the jaw bone and completely invisible from the outside. Depending on how the gum heals around the abutment you may see a small amount of metal. For image-conscious patients ceramic abutments are possible for a completely natural appearance.
How much do implants cost?
Depending on the complexity of the case, implants can cost $2,000-$5,000 each.
I have a healthy mouth, but not much bone — what are my options?
Bone grafts are available for some patients. This will increase the available bone volume to support the implant. Ask your dentist if you’re a suitable candidate.
Are there alternatives to dental implants?
There are many alternatives when it comes to replacing the crowns of teeth. These include bridges, partial dentures, and full dentures. However, none of these alternatives replace the root of the lost tooth, just the crown above the gum. Only dental implants restore the full functionality of a missing tooth, root and all.