In the past, the two ways to resolve lost teeth in Birmingham, AL, were dental bridges or dentures. A dental bridge is a prosthetic that fills the gap and is attached to the natural teeth on either side.
On the other hand, dentures are removable appliances that sit on top of your gums and must be removed for cleaning and maintenance. The main drawbacks to bridges and dentures are that they're poorly anchored in your mouth, so they lack permanence, and they don’t address the problem of bone loss associated with missing teeth.
Why Dental Implants Are Better
Dental implants, in contrast, address every issue caused by missing teeth. First, implants are secured to your jaw, deep into the bone, making them more permanent. Second, implants can be customized to your specific needs, whether it's a single tooth replacement or system to restore multiple teeth. Finally, they prevent bone loss because, like your natural teeth, they are connected directly to your jaw, and that pressure keeps your bone from deteriorating.
Another benefit to new dental implants is that the technology uses titanium. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, “Dental implants are made of titanium alloy (similar to hip implants, shoulder implants, and knee implants), which is highly biocompatible, and an allergy to titanium is extremely rare!”
The Anatomy of a Dental Implant
The overall structure of a dental implant comprises three distinct parts: the implant screw, the implant abutment, and the restoration.
The implant screw, also called the artificial root, is the lowest portion of the implant that goes into the bone. This portion is the titanium part designed to firmly attach to your jawbone, providing the foundation for the entire composition.
The implant abutment acts as a connector between the screw and the restoration. The abutment is available in various forms depending on the variety of restorations available. For example, if your implant is for a single tooth, Dr. Cook will customize the abutment for attachment to a dental crown that looks just like a natural tooth. But if your implant scenario is to replace a series of teeth, your abutment will be designed to connect to an implant-support bridge or denture that may snap into place or be permanently affixed. Again, your dentist will help you choose which type is best for you, depending on how many teeth are being replaced and in which area of your mouth.
Finally, the restoration is the top and visible portion of the dental implant. Your restoration is the most tailored part of the system as it depends on the variety of implant scenarios mentioned above. For example, if it’s a crown, it will be made of porcelain and permanently attached to the abutment. In the case of a multiple-tooth restoration, it will most likely be made of a composite material secured to a frame with specific connection points.
Establishing New Dental Implants
Here is a snapshot of the entire implant process:
- Consultation and assessment
- Jawbone preparation/bone grafts (also if necessary)
- Implant screw placement
- Healing and integration
- Abutment and restoration attachment
First Step – Consultation and Assessment
The dental implant process will begin when you consult with Dr. Aaron Cook at Cook Family Dental to ensure you’re a good candidate for the procedure. First, he will examine you to be sure your jawbone is substantial enough to support the procedure. Once you and Dr. Cook have determined an implant is right for you, the procedure will move forward.
Second Step – Jawbone Preparation
If Dr. Cook judges your jaw's thickness to be insufficient, then a bone graft is an option to reinforce your jaw and make the implant possible. Researchers at the Mayo Clinic advocate for the use of bone grafts “because the powerful chewing action of your mouth exerts great pressure on your bone, and if it can't support the implant, the surgery likely would fail.”
If you may require a bone graft to build up your jaw, don’t be discouraged. Dr. Cook works with the top oral surgeons in the area and will be happy to refer you for treatment.
Third Step – Implant Screw Placement
In this step, Dr. Cook will surgically insert the implant’s base part (or parts) into your jaw. If you need a single tooth or multiple tooth restoration, this procedure can take between one and several hours.
Fourth Step – Healing and Integration
When your implant foundation is installed, the healing and integration process may take several weeks. This is necessary because we want the screw to physically fuse with the bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. This transformation is what makes your implant strong and stable.
Fifth Step – Abutment and Restoration Attachment
While osseointegration progresses, Dr. Cook will supervise the restoration that will eventually sit on top of the implant screw or screws. He will have a crown manufactured for a single tooth that will fit seamlessly with the surrounding teeth. Where you have several missing teeth, the restoration will be built more like a dental bridge and attached to several implant screws depending on the breadth of the gap. When Dr. Cook is satisfied that your implant is sufficiently fused, he will attach the restoration and check that it fits correctly such that your bite profile is ideal.
Final and Continuing Step – Maintenance
Where your finished implant is a permanently attached crown, you will treat it much like your natural teeth, cleaning them with regular brushing, flossing, and having Dr. Cook check them at your routine appointments. Where your restoration consists of an implant-supported bridge or denture, care may involve removal and gentle cleaning with a brush and solution.
Dr. Cook will advise the ideal method depending on your unique situation. But either way, If you care for your implants properly, their lifespan will be measured in years.
So if you suffer from missing teeth, don’t delay. The staff at Cook Family Dental in Birmingham, AL, can set up a consultation, and you can get on the road to recovery.