Nothing replaces your natural teeth, but dental implants can come close. Implants have been used for many years. They are man-made “anchors” that look like screws and are made of titanium and other materials that are compatible with the human body. The single tooth implant is placed by surgery in the upper or lower jaw, where it replaces your missing tooth’s root(s).
An implant looks and acts like a natural tooth. It fits securely even when you chew and speak. A single tooth implant does not involve treatment to your other teeth. Plus, it may also help you keep a good level of bone around your teeth.
The way implants are placed depends on your anatomy or bone structure, the type of implant, and the tooth being replaced. Some implants require 2 or 3 appointments and can take up to a year to complete. Other implants can have a temporary crown placed on the same day. You and your dentist can discuss which type is best for you.
Most implants involve 3 or 4 basic steps:
Placement of the implant
Your dentist surgically places the implant into your jawbone. There may be some swelling and/or tenderness after the surgery, so pain medication may be prescribed to ease the discomfort. Your dentist may recommend a diet of soft foods during the healing process.
The healing process
What makes an implant so strong is that the bone actually grows around it and holds it in place. This process is called osseointegration (OSS-eo-in-tee-GRAY-shun) and takes time. Some people might need to wait until the implant is completely integrated before a permanent replacement tooth can be attached to the implant. This can take several months. Other people can have the implant and a temporary replacement tooth placed all in one visit. The length of the healing process depends on location of the replacement tooth and the type of implant being used.
Replacing your missing tooth
For a single tooth implant, your dentist custom-makes a new tooth for you, called a dental crown. It is based on a size, shape, and color that will blend with your other teeth. Once completed, the man-made tooth is attached to the implant post or abutment.
Your dentist can help you decide if you can get a dental implant. In most cases, you are a good candidate if:
You’ll need to make sure the area around the implant is especially clean. Your dentist may recommend that you use a special toothbrush, called an interproximal brush, or a mouthrinse to help prevent gum problems.
You should also choose oral care products with the American Dental Association Seal of Acceptance. A product that displays the ADA Seal is your assurance that it has met ADA standards for safety and effectiveness. All of these accepted products will help ensure the area around your implant remains healthy.