"What? Are you going to drive a screw into my jaw, doc?"
Let's say you recently faced making a tough decision on that tooth that has been an issue for some time and you eventually had to extract that tooth or you are looking to extract it right now. Maybe the consequences of the gum disease have put their toll on several of your teeth or you experienced a trauma and the tooth (teeth) got cracked. The biggest issue besides the fear of the actual extraction procedure for you is "what is going to happen after that?" As your dentist probably suggested, you should look into restoring that tooth is a very timely fashion to avoid inevitable chewing problems, speech and cosmetic issues and restorative problems due to shifting of the adjacent teeth. It is much easier and much less expensive to prevent the problem than to deal with it when it's fully developed and affected something else.
How can you restore those missing teeth? The advancement of technologies in dentistry allows us to insert a titanium cylinder into the bone and use it later for supporting the crown, bridge, denture or any other device that we plan to use to restore the missing teeth (like so called "All-on-four"). This idea works well because humane bone is a very dynamic structure and titanium surface is very biocompatible structure. When the bone cells meet dental implant surface they do not see it as an enemy and they do not try to call inflamatory cells to fight that metal. Your bone cells will form around the surface of the implant and over time that cylinder that we placed becomes immobile. That cylinder will have a platform on the top which will be used by the dentist to fit your new crown or place an abutment for the bridge or denture. Yes, the dentures also can take an advantage of the implants and (if you are a lucky owner of that beautifully looking set of teeth that sit in your drawer because they won't stay in your mouth) we can finally get that wiggly full lower denture fixed so you have your confidence back. You can put the crown on the implant, you can restore 4 missing teeth with 2 implants and a four-unit bridge on top of them, you can even restore all teeth in one arch by placing 4-6 implants and making a 12 units of beautifully looking teeth on them. This is all possible because your bone tissue can embrace the titanium surface and solidify the titanium fixture in the bone. This is the exciting part. Now, let's see what it comes with.
"Will the implant placement hurt?" Not really. The implant is totally sterile inside and out and so is your bone. There is very little trauma to the bone (unlike the extraction of the tooth when you are dealing with bone compression and bacteria). It will feel like a scratch, more or less.
"Will chewing on the implant tooth hurt?" No. Not at all. Nada! The implant does not have nerve endings and your bone does not build that complex nerve connection that your tooth used to have.
"Will the implant bleed the color through the gum?" The short answer is "Most likely no" and let me elaborate on that. even though the dental implant made of metal called titanium and has a dark-grey colored oxidized surface, when implant is placed properly and integrated fully, it's whole surface is covered by the bone and the bone is covered by the gum. There is nothing to see there from outside through the gum, because the implant is covered by the bone tissue. However the abutment if it is metal, can be seen. So we just don't use those metal abutments in the front areas where cosmetic appearance is critical. We use hybrid zirconia oxide abutments for those areas and that material has a white color simulating a natural root structure under the gum.
"Will the tooth look funny?" Again, it depends. The cosmetic appearance will be affected by the gum tissue contour and significantly affected by the number of missing teeth, number of placed implants, their position in relation to each other and adjacent teeth and gum tissue thickness. Saying in layman's terms in some cases you can achieve the result that looks impossible to tell apart from the natural tooth. This is one of the questions that only your dentist will be able to answer for your particular case.
"How soon will I get my teeth restored?" Your implant may need from 4 to 8 months to integrate into the bone. Don't forget, you have to have that bone first, so if you are starting with extraction, you will need more time (because the bone tissue needs to form first). Again, in certain cases (like front teeth) you have to have the replacement right away. It is possible to make you an immediate tooth replacement as a temporary solution. Your dentist will be your best advisor in that case of all the options that you have.
"How long will the implants last?" The implants do not have an expiration date and when placing each implant into your mouth the dentist hopes that that implant will stay there forever. However the success rate is sligtly less than 100% and greatly depends on the patient's health, patient's habits, patient's oral hygiene and other factors. The implant placed into the uncontrolled diabetic patient who smokes tobacco will have less chances to integrate successfuly than the one placed into the healthy patient without bad habits and with a good oral care.
Implants and implant supported crowns, bridges and dentures (counting those all-on-four) make an excellent choice when replacement of the teeth are needed. Virtually any scenario can be restored with properly selected and placed implants, considering proper routine home care.
Call Your Family Dentist at 703-417-9622 to schedule your exam and to get your questions answered.