Eating, drinking, smiling, laughing, talking, and kissing is what life is all about. These are the everyday activities we take for granted until they become difficult due to missing or failing teeth. Dental implants are the best way to replace your teeth as they look, feel, and function like natural teeth.
Dr. Charette is a prosthodontist in Louisville, KY with 3 years of additional training in the field of implant dentistry. His knowledge and expertise are available here in Louisville, KY to give you your function back and allow you to confidently enjoy life to the fullest.
What are Dental Implants?
Essentially, dental implants replace the roots of your teeth. These artificial roots are made of a very strong, biocompatible titanium alloy that eventually fuses to the bone in your jaws. These “metal- roots” serve as the foundation for the artificial teeth that they secure into your mouth.
There are many different types of implant restorations, each requiring a specific kind, position, number, and arrangement of implants. In general, implants can be restored with crowns, bridges, or full-arch prosthetics that can be fixed (screwed-in) or removable (snap-in). It is very important that implants are selected and placed appropriately in order to properly support the proposed restoration.
Parts of a Dental Implant Restoration
- Implant: The titanium base within the jaw bone that supports the artificial tooth or teeth.
- Abutment: The abutment portion of a dental implant prosthetic is the part that connects the implant to the artificial tooth or teeth. This is why they are sometimes referred to as the “connector.”
- Crown, Bridge, or Dental Prosthetic: These make up the functional and esthetic portion of implant restoration. They can be stand-alone (crowns), connected to bridge a gap and replace 3 or more teeth (bridges), or connected to replace all the missing teeth in a single arch (full arch prosthetics/hybrids). These restorations can be made out of a variety of materials including porcelain, resin, zirconia, metal, or a combination thereof. The material choice is dependent on many factors, but you can trust that Dr. Charette will custom make them to match your existing teeth or to give you a gorgeous set of new teeth altogether.
Types of Dental Implant Restorations
- Crowns: Sometimes called caps when they are associated with natural teeth. These “caps” are cemented over the abutment “connector” to secure the artificial tooth in your mouth. These are not removable and are designed to replace a single missing tooth.
- Bridges: Implant bridges are not removable and can restore 2 or more missing teeth in any one area by attaching to implants on either side of the gap.
- All on 4’s/Full Arch: Implants have changed the way people experience the loss of their teeth. Dentures that are secured to implants, which have fused to the bone, are the best and most effective way to replace missing teeth. The prosthetics are screwed in and thus are not removable. They look, function, and feel like natural teeth. Fixing a denture prosthetic with implants improves function, speech, comfort, and confidence.
- Removable Prosthetics: Implants can also be utilized to help improve the stability and function of removable prosthetics. Upper conventional prosthetics work well in some patients and not so well in others. Conventional lower prosthetics don’t work well for most anyone. That’s where implants can help. By providing a retentive element to the inside of the denture, the implant can help stabilize the prosthetic and allow it to more effectively resist both vertical and horizontal movement. This added retention and stability can greatly enhance the denture or partial-denture wearers’ quality of life and experience with removable therapies.
When Might You Need a Dental Implant?
- You are missing one or several teeth: A dental implant and crown, or an implant bridge, can replace your missing tooth/teeth while providing the most natural type of dental restoration possible.
- You have loose dentures or partial dentures: Dental implants can help to secure your existing and or new prosthetics and enhance their stability and retention. In addition, they can allow the roof of your mouth to be exposed for increased taste and less bulk in your palate and eliminate the need for unsightly metal clasps.
- You have a broken, fractured, or infected tooth that cannot be restored: Sometimes an implant can be placed at the same time that a tooth is removed. This is called immediate implant placement and happens at the time of extraction. There are many factors that determine whether a tooth can be attached to the implant at the same time or not, but ultimately the final restoration will replace your tooth and it will look, function, and feel like the natural tooth it replaces.
- You have a loose or failing natural tooth bridge: Natural tooth bridges can last for several years, even decades. Sometimes they can be replaced with a new bridge and sometimes the remaining tooth structure is no longer adequate to support a new one. If you have a loose, fractured, or failing bridge, implants can help to provide a long-lasting solution to replace several missing teeth (up to 4) in one area.
- Your facial features have changed dramatically after the loss of your teeth: Many of our patients complain of a “sunken-in” appearance due to the loss of a tooth, tissue, or bone support. When placed properly, implants and their restorations can provide the support needed to make your smile and your face look natural again.
- You have difficulty chewing food with your dentures, partials, or lack of teeth: Dental Implants can provide the foundation for prosthetics that not only look great but that function well. Many denture patients complain of their lack of ability to eat their favorite foods; cheeseburgers, steaks, crunchy veggies, ect. Fixed implant therapies allow patients to enjoy those foods again and give them the confidence to eat in public without the fear of their teeth moving or coming loose.
- You are tired of messy denture adhesives: If you’re like thousands of other Kentucky denture wearers, you know the hassle of using a denture adhesive to increase your comfort and confidence in your conventional denture prosthetics. Implants can allow you to throw away the messy creams and annoying cleanup.
- You feel insecure about your smile due to missing teeth, dentures, or partial: Implants can greatly improve the confidence you have in your prosthetics and in yourself. With implants, you can eat, laugh, cough, sneeze, smile, and all the other everyday life activities without having to worry about your teeth. You can rest assured that your mouth and your smile are prepared for anything.
Benefits of Dental Implants
- Improved Appearance: Implants and their restorations can provide the support of the soft tissues, bone, and teeth to support the face making you look younger and feel better.
- Improved Speech: Dentures and partials can be bulky and their contours can make it challenging to speak properly. Implant prosthetics are shaped more like natural teeth and thus improve your ability to speak normally.
- Improved Comfort: Since implants secure the prosthetics to the bone, they don’t require long extensions, also known as flanges, to help them stay in. This makes them a lot more comfortable to wear than conventional dentures or partials.
- Improved Function: Dental implant restorations, whether fixed or removable, have enhanced resistance to movement. This means that they are more stable and secure when you are trying to eat something hard or sticky. They allow you to bite with force and enjoy your favorite foods again without fear of them falling out or pain.
- Improved Confidence: Implant restorations are highly esthetic and can make your smile look great without anyone knowing that you don’t have your natural teeth. They also improve the stability of prosthetics that might make you feel less confident when laughing or eating.
- Preserved Bone: When all the teeth are removed and the roots are gone the lack of stimulation to the bone leads to continued bone loss and resorption of the remaining structures. Because implants transmit forces to the bone they stimulate the bone to remain.
- Highly Successful: When placed appropriately and cared for properly, implants have a 96-98% success rate giving you a healthy, long-lasting
Who is a Good Candidate for Implants?
In general, most people are good candidates for dental implants. Some people will need additional therapies in order to receive implants as part of their prosthodontic care, such as bone grafting/bone augmentation. Some medical conditions require further evaluation, but with the right precautions, they too can enjoy the benefits of dental implants.
Dental Implant Process
The process involved in dental implant therapies can vary from patient to patient and is dependent on the type of restoration desired, the anatomy of the future implant site, medical status of the patient, and other factors that will be reviewed by your prosthodontist.
In general, the steps are as follows:
- Extraction of the tooth/teeth to be replaced by the implant: We will likely recommend a bone graft, known as ridge preservation, at the time of extraction. If the tooth is already missing or has been missing for some time, we may need to recommend bone augmentation in order to create enough bone volume for the future implant.
- Implant Placement: Once the bone graft is strong enough, the implant will be placed and allowed to heal. This process is known as osseointegration. The bone actually grows around the implant, fusing it to the jaw-bone. If the implant is meant to replace a single tooth, this process will need to occur prior to putting a tooth on the implant. If the implant is meant to replace an entire arch of teeth, and thus will be connected or splinted to multiple implants, the teeth can be put on the implant the same day that the teeth are extracted and the implants are placed.
- Restoration of the implant: Most implant prosthetics require a temporary version of the prosthetic to be utilized in order to contour and shape the gums in a manner that mimic natural teeth, test your bite, and allow the prosthodontist to gain meticulous records for the proper mechanics of the restoration to be delivered.
All in all, you can expect the process of a single tooth implant to take 4-6 months to complete and up to a year for a full arch/full mouth.
Dental Implant FAQ’s