Your oral health needs are our number one priority here at Excellent Dental Specialists, and that covers much ground. However, there is one specific category that is a huge matter of timeliness and urgency in our eyes, and that is missing teeth. Missing teeth can cause a wide array of problems as time goes on, from your gums to your teeth to your jaw. It all plays a role. We want you to be safe and comfortable in your smile, so see what dental implant options we have for you today.
Dental implants are a relatively common procedure when it comes to the restoration of a mouth with one or more missing teeth. This is certainly a powerful weapon, as its versatility is outstanding. A dental implant is a small post made of titanium that comes in a variety of shapes and sizes. This post is surgically inserted into your jaw itself, offering a base for a false tooth that is even stronger than the root of a natural tooth. This implant fuses directly with your jawbone for a very permanent option. These implants can be used with a wide variety of different appliances, all custom made, from crowns to bridges, even to dentures! The process of getting an implant itself is relatively simple.
Getting a dental implant can be a two-step process. The first step that we need to take is determining your bone density. This is because missing teeth can over time cause your jaw to legitimately lose bone and structure. This makes the bone weak and brittle. If your bone density is low, it will not be able to support an implant, and if it does not reject it right away, it can cause more damage over time and could harm other teeth. If this is the case, your first step is a bone graft. If you do have proper bone density, then you can skip straight to step two!
Bone grafts are relatively straightforward procedures, doing precisely as their name leads you to believe. We will be grafting bone from another source (from your body or not) to a recipient site on your jaw. Bone grafts (or transplants) are incredible advances that allow us to rebuild your bone structure and keep it at a consistent level, rather than experiencing further deterioration before it is time to get your implants. If you require this step be taken, the first thing that we are going to do is talk with you.
We will want to know where you are comfortable with us getting the donor bone from. Here, you have three general options. The first is your body. Generally, in this instance, we would take bone from the back of your jaw and move it to the area that is lacking. However, for larger grafts, we may need to take from your hip or your shin. Another great option is a cadaver bone. This bone could come from either bovine or human bone, both very compatible and very natural and safe. If neither of these is particularly appealing to you, you could also choose a synthetic bone, that is man-made but just as effective (and safe!) as the other two options.
Once you have chosen which route you would like to go, we will be ready to begin the procedure. You will be given an anesthetic first and foremost. A local anesthetic will numb only the general area, while a general anesthetic will sedate you or put you to sleep during the procedure. Then, once you cannot feel anything, we will begin. To start, we will make a small incision in your gums. This will give us clear access to the part of your bone that has weakened over time. At this point, we will be able to determine just how much bone we need to get from the donor site (which will also be thoroughly numbed, do not worry).
Then, we will be able to get that bone material and place it over the incision we made. Using tiny titanium screws and some wire, we will secure this new bone in place, snugly over the bone that is already there. Material to act as a catalyst for healing and bone regrowth will then be laid over the bone fusion area. Then we will stitch you up, and you are set to go.
Recovery after a bone graft can take several months, usually three to six. Before you can come in for your dental implant procedure, we want to make sure the two bone pieces have fully fused. This provides us the ideal strength and density to uphold an implant for a long time or a lifetime. Your recovery time will vary depending on the nature of the donated bone, where the graft was located, and how much bone had to be grafted. In the days following the procedure, you may notice a few things happening.
First and foremost, you may find that you are discovering little tiny pieces of bone throughout your mouth. This is normal! Do not rinse your mouth or spit them out as this will disturb the graft. This is also why we advise you not to touch the area with your hands or tongue. The area will be swollen for a time as your body adjusts and works to heal itself. An ice pack, though, will do the trick. You also should be aware that in neither of these processes is it ok to smoke while healing. This habit makes it difficult for your body to heal wounds and can either make it take much longer or make it totally impossible. It can cause infection and disease. It is best to stop now and not pick it back up later if it can be helped.
If you have skipped step one, congratulations, you are well on your way to a brilliant new smile. If you have made it here from step one, congratulations, you are better off than you were before you started and it is only going to get better from here. Now for the implant process, you will be given an anesthetic as well. Local or general is still up to your discretion and what is or is not safe for you, as that is our main concern. Once you are completely numb, we can begin the process. We will start out by determining the size and shape of the implant you need. This varies entirely depending on the patient.
Once we have this picked out, we will be ready to begin. This procedure begins with a simple incision in the upper surface of your gums. This allows us to see the socket we need to fill and to access it without obstruction. If there is any damage or decay in the area, we will clear that out immediately and then set the post in place. This is where it will fuse completely with your bone. This means that it will act in the same way that your natural tooth root does, but it will be much stronger. Then, we will stitch you up, and you will be good to start the healing process.
After the implants are successfully installed, there will be a several month recovery period. Over the next few days, you will have to make some accommodations. For starters, for a while after you go home you will need to bite down on some gauze to stop the bleeding. This will pass relatively soon. If it lasts more than 24 hours, please call us. Then, you will have to take care as a general rule of thumb.
You can’t disturb the area, as you may disturb the healing process, so it is important that you watch what you eat, and how you brush your teeth (be gentle!). We cannot stress enough how important it is that you do not smoke while healing. It can mess up the healing process big time. After the first 24 hours, you should start rinsing with salt water to limit the bacteria and reduce the risk of infection. Two or three times of rinsing each day should be plenty to get you well on your way to healing. It is normal to experience swelling in the area, and we recommend that you apply ice externally to decrease that as much as possible.
Also limit physical activity until you are sure how it affects you, as something as simple as sitting up too quickly may cause dizziness or lightheadedness, since your calorie intake and fluids are all out of whack. Eat healthy foods (we advise soft foods for the first few days) and foods that are not too hot. Do not use a straw. Finally, be aware that you may experience some pain in the days following, but you will likely have a prescription for a pain medication. This, along with swallowing blood, general discomfort, or anesthesia may cause nausea. You may switch the pain medication for a different over-the-counter option if you would rather, and if nausea does not stop after an extended period, come back in.
When it comes to dental implants, there is a lot that improves once you are all set to go. Firstly, the socket is safe. Without a tooth there, the area where the tooth was lost is susceptible to a lot of different problems, from gum disease and infection to bone loss. This implant stops those in their tracks. It limits bacteria’s access to the pockets it wants to hide away in, and goes deep into your jaw bone, meaning that it is constantly helping to replenish your bone, reversing bone loss. This procedure also helps your other surrounding teeth. It is common for surrounding teeth to shift into the gap or tip at an angle toward the space.
Implants ensure that these teeth stay where they were meant to, and do not become crowded or misaligned over time. Once the abutment is installed, when your jaw and mouth are completely healed, you will find that this option provides a much more natural look than a removable prosthetic would be able to do. This makes it a cosmetically appealing option as well as restorative. It is almost impossible for an untrained eye to see a difference between a crown or fixed bridge and a natural tooth. Your smile will also regain a more youthful appearance, as your cheeks and lips will appear less sunken in, which tends to happen with missing teeth. Finally, these new teeth will not limit you in the same way that a removable prosthetic would.
Removable pieces limit what you can eat and drink, and can make it very difficult to talk, should the piece start to slip. An implant is special. Because it holds so tightly and is fused with bone, barring some major accident, it is not going anywhere. This means that you will not have issues eating whatever your heart desires. This also means that they will not shift, slide, or fall out, which makes life much less humiliating, wouldn’t you say? It is a terribly embarrassing occurrence to gag on your dentures, but with implants, you will never have to worry about that again.
We want the absolute best for you here at Excellent Dental Specialists, and we are willing to go the extra mile for you and your oral needs. Implants are an excellent way for us to help you look and feel like your old self again, and stay as healthy as ever. These are an extraordinarily long lasting option with proper care, so be sure to take good care of them and to visit us for cleanings often. If you have any questions concerning implants or the process for getting them, give us a call today at (210) 598-8933.
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