Overview of Dental Implants
Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery in Nashua and Bedford, NH
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are the gold standard to provide a safe, natural-appearing replacement for missing teeth. With proper care, these dental implants can serve as a life-long solution, providing you with the same function and appearance as a natural tooth.
A normal tooth has a crown (the part you can see) and a root (the part you can’t see that is embedded in the jaw). When a tooth is missing and reconstruction is desired, the new tooth is made of multiple parts:
- The “implant” is a titanium screw that is placed into the jaw by an oral surgeon and replaces the tooth root.
- The “abutment” is a post that connects the implant to the crown.
- The “crown” is a prosthetic tooth placed onto the implant by the dentist/prosthodontist once the implant fully heals and integrates with the surrounding bone.
Why Dental Implants?
Dental implants allow for a permanent, natural-appearing solution for patients with missing teeth. They significantly improve quality of life by giving patients effective chewing and a beautiful smile. Unlike dentures, they do not slip or fall out when talking or eating. They do not require the preparation of adjacent teeth or trap food around them like a traditional bridge. With good hygiene and care, they can last a lifetime.
What is the Process?
In some cases, the native tooth must be removed first and the underlying bone prepared for the implant through bone grafting (see below). Once the bone graft site heals (usually 3-4 months), the implant can be placed. The implant placement itself takes 30-60 minutes for one implant and can take up to 2-3 hours if multiple implants are placed. The surgery can be performed with local anesthesia alone, or with additional sedation medications depending on the specific patient. Once your mouth is numb and you are comfortable, a small incision is created. Using a sequence of instruments, space is created to allow for the insertion of the implant into the planned site. Once completed, the top of the implant may be visible through the gums or be buried underneath the gum tissue. After the implant heals and fully integrates into the surrounding bone (usually 3-4 months), the dentist or prosthodontist can apply the abutment and crown.
For some patients, if no bone grafting needs to be performed, the oral surgeon can perform an “immediate implant”. In this procedure, the native tooth can be removed and the implant placed at the same visit. By eliminating a step, this procedure reduces the amount of time it takes before getting the final crown.
Who is a Candidate for Dental Implants?
There are several factors that our Nashua doctors will consider before recommending dental implants. A great candidate is anyone who is missing one or more teeth or is not satisfied with their dentures. Specific conditions can affect placement and healing of dental implants. Some of these include:
- Insufficient bone structure to anchor the implant
- Location of the paranasal sinuses and nerves
- Overall health, including smoking history, osteoporosis, steroid use or history of radiation/cancer.
Missing All Upper or Lower Teeth
In addition to replacing single missing teeth, implants can also be placed to provide a more stable alternative to conventional dentures if you are missing all of your upper or lower teeth.
There are several options available:
- Removable Implant-Supported Dentures provide replacement for all upper and/or lower teeth. The dentures can be removed for cleaning, but are far more secure than unsupported dentures. They are secured to the jaw bone using either a ball or bar attachment to decrease movement and increase comfort. These dentures can be attached with as few as 4 implants depending on the patient.
- Fixed Implant-Supported Dentures also replace all upper and/or lower teeth. These are often called “Hybrid” or “All on 4” restorations. A full arch prosthesis is created and permanently anchored to the dental implants. They are used to replace a full set of teeth and can be delivered on the same day as dental extractions in specific patients.
Why Apex Oral Maxillofacial Surgery & Implantology?
Dental implants are at the cutting edge of technology, with constant improvements and advancements being made in the field. Surgical placement requires experience and knowledge to obtain a successful result. We incorporate the latest technology into our practice using 3D CT scans and computer-generated guidance systems to precisely plan and execute implant placement. In addition, our dedicated oral and maxillofacial surgical training enables us to handle complex cases including those in which the underlying jaw bone is compromised and a bone graft is needed, or in medically complex patients requiring specialized anesthesia/sedation.