What are they and what are they for?
A dental implant is a substitute for both the tooth and the root. A biocompatible titanium cylinder is implanted in the bone and, once healed, used to screw on a crown, bridge or a structure to support a denture. When a tooth is lost, the bone that previously surrounded it starts to shrink. This can lead to recession of bone and gum tissue on the adjacent teeth. Placing an implant maintains a healthy level of bone and gum tissue. The implanted screw becomes a good foundation for both the new tooth and the jaw bone around it. There is no need to grind down adjacent teeth as with fitting a bridge. Loose fitting dentures can be firmly supported with dental implants.
How is it done?
The process is usually carried out under local anesthesia and sometimes under light sedation. After the cylinder is placed in the bone, several months are needed for healing before they become functional. The procedure does not hurt and most patients experience little or no discomfort afterwards.
Prior to placing an implant, the area of tooth loss is examined to determine if there is adequate bone to support the prosthesis. Sometimes, a bone graft is required to improve the quality or quantity of bone. The graft is typically a medical grade purified crystaline bone extract. Following a specified healing period, an xray is taken to determine the quality and amount of healthy bone prior to implant placement.
How long do they last for?
Implants need specific cleaning techniques which differ from those of natural teeth. This is important for the longevity of the implant. The health of the implant can be affected by ones overall health, oral hygiene, possible clenching and grinding, and the type of foods that are eaten. As long as the implant is taken care of, it should last many years.