For individuals missing one or several teeth due to gum disease, decay, accidents or for other reasons, dental implants are an option to consider. The use of implants have been around since the 1960s, but the applications have broadened over time.
There are two types of implants that are considered safe by dental experts. These include:
- Endosteal implants – These types of implants are surgically affixed to the patient’s jawbone. The gum tissue is allowed to heal after which a second surgery is conducted to attach the post. Once completed, the artificial teeth are affixed to the posts.
- Subperiosteal implants – involve attaching a frame directly to the person’s jaw bone. The teeth are then attached to these protruding posts.
There are many advantages to getting implants which include the following:
- Implants are designed to resemble and feel like your natural teeth
- Chewing, eating or cleaning the implants remains the same as the implants work in the same way as natural teeth
- There is no need to file down adjacent teeth or use root fillings
- Provides support for the replacement tooth and any dentures
- No need to use any special glue to keep the replacement teeth in place
Although the process of attaching implants is generally considered safe, as with any procedure requiring oral surgery, there are several drawbacks. Here are a few aspects to think about before saying yes to your dentist.
- The entire procedure can take half a year or more to finish because of the steps involved. Patients often wait several months just for the jaw bone to accept and fuse with the implant.
- Bleeding and infection can occur which increase the chances of developing periodontal disease and even bone loss
- Special cases may require additional dental work or surgery. For instance, the sinus area may need to be elevated if they are too close to the jaw area.
- Additional bone pieces may also be grafted if the individual has osteoporosis or has soft, thin or a weak jawbone.
- The patient will need to save up to avail of the procedure as it is often not covered by insurance.
Through dental implants, individuals who have lost one or several teeth have the option of getting their smile back and get a boost in their self-esteem. As the replacement teeth appear and function in the same way as natural teeth, the individual also regains their normal chewing and eating abilities.
There are some conditions that must be met to increase the chances of getting the implants installed successfully. For one, the patient must be older than 18 to ensure that the bone tissue is already fully developed before undergoing the procedure.
Another important consideration is the current condition of the teeth and gums. Dentists cannot fit implants on a patient who has tooth decay or gum disease as this increases the chances of developing an infection during or after the surgery.
After inspecting the mouth and deeming the individual as a suitable candidate for the procedure, the patient will be provided with a number of treatment options. The options will vary from one patient to another, depending on several factors including the number of teeth missing, their positions and the quality of the existing bone tissue.
Installing the implants will require surgery. Before having the procedure done, take a trip to the nearest pharmacy and purchase some aftercare essentials such as gauze pads, saline, ice packs and soft foods, among others. The first few days should be devoted to resting, so get enough supplies to last you for at least a week or more.
It can take several days or even weeks for the wound around the implant to completely heal. Here is what you can expect and what you can do to speed up the healing process.
During the first week
The first two days are critical as this is when you will experience bleeding, swelling, oozing and pain. No need to worry as this is an indication that your body is healing normally.
Avoid touching the surgical area. Apply ice when necessary. This can help relieve some of the pain and swelling around your teeth.
When you brush your teeth, be as gentle as you can to avoid getting into contact with the surgical area. After the first day, you can gargle some saltwater to help sterilize your mouth and remove blood.
Beginning on the second or third day, you may notice some bruising or discoloration. This will last for another three days or so. Because of the gauze, expect to experience a stiff jaw and dry lips, among others.
After the first week
Continue the cleaning routine while your implants and the surgical areas continue to heal. As time progresses, you may also need to make some diet and lifestyle changes. For instance, you may want to limit your consumption of acidic foods to reduce the amount of plaque and bacteria inside your mouth.
Spend as much time resting after the surgery to allow your mouth to heal naturally.
Other general care tips
Dental implants are durable. Once your implants have healed completely, you can follow these steps to ensure that they stay in good condition for years to come:
- Clean your teeth religiously – brush your teeth twice a day using a soft-bristled toothbrush and floss at least once daily. Use floss and interdental brushes to clean those hard-to-reach crevices in between your teeth. Your dentist may recommend a specific type of floss for your implants
- Visit your dentist at least twice a year to ensure your teeth and implants stay in good condition. Dentists have special equipment that can clean your crowns without damaging them.
- Use an oral irrigator. Oral irrigators release a stream of water at high pressure, which can help remove some of the food pieces and plaque in between the teeth.
- Stop smoking as this can weaken your jaw structurally.
- Avoid hard foods such as candy or ice as they can chip both your natural and artificial teeth.
This guide is not designed to replace any recommendations your dentist has provided you. But by reading and following the tips, you have a better idea of what to expect when it comes to your dental implants.