Dental Implants

An implant is one of several options to replace a missing tooth.  It is a restorative procedure that attaches an artificial tooth to an anchor that is surgically placed in the jawbone.

In most instances, implants feel more natural and secure than other options to replace missing teeth.

The most common type of implant is the root-form.  It is made of titanium and looks like a small screw.  Titanium is a material that the jawbone accepts as part of the body.

After an implant is placed in the jawbone, it is allowed to heal to become integrated with the bone ( a process called osseointegration).  This process is the key to the success of an implant.

When the area has healed ( usually several months), a metal collar called an abutment is attached to the implant.  A crown, which closely replicates the colour and shape of the natural tooth, is made to attach to the abutment.

Benefits of Implants

While the initial cost for an implant can be more than a denture or bridge ( an implant plus a crown can cost between $3000 and $4000), there are many benefits:

Appearance – increased confidence comes with having a beautiful, natural smile

Function – unlike dentures, which loosen over time, implants are fixed and function like natural teeth, allowing you to speak and eat without worry

Longevity – with proper care, an implant can last for many years or even a lifetime, providing a long-term solution for your dental problems

Tooth-saving – since implants don’t involve adjacent teeth for support, the surrounding teeth are unaffected

Are You An Implant Candidate?

In order to determine if you are a candidate for an implant, your first step is to make an appointment with your dentist for an evaluation.

The initial appointment will include a thorough examination (including xrays) of your mouth and teeth, as well as a thorough review of your medical and dental history.

A good candidate should have the following:

                 Good Health

                 Healthy Gums

                 Enough bone to anchor the implant in the jaw

                 A commitment to taking care of implanted teeth and surrounding gums

At the end of your examination appointment, your dentist will discuss your options with you and thoroughly explain the procedure, cost and possible complications.  If your case is complicated, you may be referred to a specialist for preliminary work (such as grafting) and the placement of the implant.  After healing, you would then return to your dentist to have the crown placed.

Detailed Information on Implant Placement

First Surgery Appointment

At your first implant appointment, you will be given antibiotics and pain medication.  Antibiotics reduce the chance of any infection developing in the surgical site and impeding healing.  Pain medication taken prior to surgery will help reduce any discomfort you may feel afterwards.  Your dentist will use local anaesthetic to numb the area where the implant will be placed.  If you are feeling any anxiety about the procedure, you can arrange in advance for the dentist to prescribe medication to relax you.

To place the implant, the dentist will first make an incision into your gums to expose the bone.  She will then drill a hole into the bone and place the implant into the hole.  She will take an xray of the area to ensure the implant is in the correct position, and will then stitch your gum closed over the implant.

The placement of a single implant generally takes about one hour.  The time increases if more than one implant is being placed or if bone grafting is being done at the same time. You can expect to some mild to moderate discomfort after the procedure.

If the implant is an anterior one ( in the front of your mouth), the dentist will have a temporary denture or bridge ready to be placed, so you do not have to be without a tooth.

After the surgery, the dentist will give you antibiotics and pain medication, as well as instructions to follow:

Don’t spit, suck on straws or smoke.  Any of these can dislodge blood clots and slow healing

Eat only soft foods

Don’t clean the implant area for 1-2 weeks, but clean the rest of your mouth normally

You will return to the dentist a week to ten days after surgery to have your stitches out.

It will take several months for the bone to bond with the implant (osseointegration).

Second Surgery Appointment

The dentist, after giving you local anaesthetic, will make a small incision in the gum to expose the implant.  She will place a metal collar ( abutment) on the implant. This will sit above your gums in the area where the tooth would be.  It maintains the space so that your gums heal correctly around the implant.

Generally, you will see your dentist two to three weeks after the second surgery to start the process of having the crown made.