A dental implant is a small screw, generally made out of titanium, which can be placed into the jaw bone (either upper or lower jaw). Once the implant has been placed into the jaw, bone from the host will grow around the screw allowing “osseointegration”, fusion of bone to the implant surface. This process can take between 6 weeks and 4 months depending on the case.
Once integrated in the jaw bone, a tooth (crown) can be attached to the implant by the patient’s restorative dentist, essentially recreating the initial state of the tooth in health, prior to extraction.
Following extraction of a tooth affected by periodontal disease, there is often a substantial loss of supporting bone in the area. To ensure that sufficient bone will be present in the future to allow implant placement, bone grafting techniques can be used to augment the area. A healing period of 3-6 months is required prior to placing implants into the grafted site.
In certain cases, a dental implant can be placed directly following the extraction of a tooth, also called “immediate placement”. This is a more advanced technique and requires enough bone to support the implant. This technique offers several advantages to both the doctor and patient including decreased treatment time, less surgical procedures, decreased cost, and improved support of remaining bone. If insufficient bone remains following extraction of a tooth, the conventional approach of waiting 3-6 months for the socket to heal prior to placing the implant at the site is selected.
Dental implants can be used to replace single missing teeth, as well as to replace multiple missing teeth, even complete replacement of a full dentition for patients who have lost all of there teeth.