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Everything You Need to Know About Dental Implants

Posted on Wednesday, August 16, 2023

Okay, perhaps “everything” is a bit of an exaggeration—but we do have the answers to some essential questions if you’re thinking about replacing a missing tooth with an implant.

  • What Are Dental Implants?

The construction of dental implants is simple and elegant. Most often, a titanium cylinder or screw is implanted into the jawbone. After several months, the implant becomes fused with the bone, a process called “osseointegration.” An abutment can then be secured inside the implant, extending above the gum line, and a crown is securely attached to this abutment. The result? A tooth that looks and functions just like a natural tooth.

  • How Long Do Implants Last?

Unlike dentures and partial bridges, which may need to be replaced every five to seven years, an implant can last a lifetime. The material usually recommended for implants is titanium, a metal that integrates well with human bone and is resistant to corrosion, although non-metallic alternatives are also available. Over a period of months, the implant fuses into the bone. The result is a base that is as strong and stable as your natural root.

  • Are There Any Preconditions for the Procedure?

Because the stability and longevity of an implant depend on its fusion with the bone surrounding it, your jawbone must have healthy density and the necessary depth and width to support an implant. When we lose a tooth, the bone underneath begins eroding as well. The longer you wait to replace a tooth, the more the jawbone beneath it shrinks. Advanced gum disease can also lead to bone loss.

Dr. Holtzen can often restore jawbone strength and density with a procedure known as bone grafting. This is a type of surgery which uses your own bone, a synthetic grafting material, or a processed bone grafting material to repair and replace damaged bone. After three to four months of healing, the jawbone is generally strong and dense enough to accept an implant.

  • What Takes Place during the Implant Procedure?

The procedure takes place under local anesthesia. Sedation dentistry is also an option if you feel it would make your experience more comfortable. Dr. Holtzen will make a careful incision in the gum tissue. A drill will be used to create a small opening for the implant within your bone, and the implant will be gently positioned. A healing cap will be placed over the implant which will extend through the gum tissue, or the site will be closed and a healing cap applied in a second procedure after the bone heals. The entire process takes about an hour for a single implant, and you will be given careful and detailed instructions for aftercare.

Once the implant has fused with the jawbone, which takes several months, you are ready for restorative work. The dentist you choose to do the restoration will oversee the fabrication of a crown designed to match your natural teeth and to fit perfectly in the space left by your missing tooth. An abutment piece will be fitted into the implant, and the crown will be attached to the abutment. The result will be a stable, anchored tooth that functions and feels like a natural tooth.

  • Why Choose an Oral Surgeon for Your Implant?

Oral surgeons like Dr. Holtzen are specialists. They have a minimum of four years of surgical education and training in a hospital-based residency program. They train with medical residents in fields of study such as general surgery, anesthesiology, internal medicine, plastic surgery, and otolaryngology (the study of the ear, nose, and throat).

Because oral and maxillofacial education and training are focused on the bone, muscles, skin, and nerves of the face, mouth, and jaw, an oral surgeon is the best choice for your implant surgery and, in fact, any kind of oral surgery.

We gave it a try, but we probably haven’t answered “everything” you’d like to learn before deciding on a dental implant. But there is someone who has the knowledge and experience to assess whether you are a suitable candidate for an implant procedure and to perform your implant surgery safely, comfortably, and successfully: Dr. Holtzen. Make an appointment at our Missoula or Hamilton office today with someone who really does know everything you need to know about dental implants!