Ask the Dentist – What is a Dental Implant

What is a Dental Implant?

by Dr Mark Rehermann

A dental implant is a medical device used to replace missing teeth and restore the function and appearance of a person’s smile. It is a permanent solution for individuals who have lost one or more teeth. Dental implants are considered a significant advancement in the field of dentistry because they provide a stable and durable alternative to traditional options like dentures or bridges.

A dental implant consists of three main components:

  1. Implant Fixture: This is a small titanium post that is surgically placed into the jawbone beneath the gumline. Titanium is used because it has the unique ability to fuse with the surrounding bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. This provides a strong and stable foundation for the replacement tooth.
  2. Abutment: The abutment is a connector piece that attaches to the implant fixture. It protrudes above the gumline and serves as a point of attachment for the replacement tooth (crown) or other dental prosthetics.
  3. Crown: The crown is the visible part of the dental implant that resembles a natural tooth. It is custom-made to match the color, size, and shape of the surrounding teeth, ensuring a natural appearance. The crown is attached to the abutment and is securely placed over it.

The process of getting a dental implant typically involves several steps:

  1. Initial Consultation: The dentist or oral surgeon evaluates the patient’s oral health, takes X-rays or scans, and discusses the suitability of dental implants as a treatment option.
  2. Surgical Placement: If the patient is a suitable candidate, the implant fixture is surgically placed into the jawbone. This procedure is usually done under local anesthesia or sedation.
  3. Healing Period: Over the next few months, osseointegration occurs as the bone fuses with the implant, providing a strong foundation. This phase generally takes 3-4 months.
  4. Impressions: The dentist takes impressions of the implant and surrounding teeth to create a custom-made abutment and crown.
  5. Abutment/Crown Placement: The final step involves attaching the custom-made abutment/crown, completing the dental implant restoration. The crown is designed to blend seamlessly with the patient’s natural teeth.

Dental implants offer several benefits, including improved chewing and speaking abilities, enhanced aesthetics, and better oral health by preventing bone loss in the jaw. However, not everyone is a suitable candidate for dental implants – overall health, bone density, and oral hygiene play a role in the success of the procedure. It’s essential to consult with a qualified dentist or oral surgeon to determine the best treatment plan for your specific needs.

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