Every year approximately 500,000 people get a dental implant to replace a missing tooth. Implants help people feel more confident in their smiles as they converse, kiss and eat without embarrassment. A dental implant is designed to fit in your mouth as a natural piece, meaning that people won’t even realize it’s there. Here is what you need to know about single-tooth implants.

Do I need an implant?

If you have lost a tooth, had a failed root canal, or have damaged a tooth beyond repair, you should consider replacing it with an implant. Replacing a missing tooth is appealing for those who are worried about gaps in their smile, however, there is more than one benefit to dental implants. For example, without a tooth to fill a space, the teeth adjacent to the spot will begin to shift to fill the gap, creating instability and a misaligned bite. Furthermore, the root of a tooth keeps your jaw bone from deteriorating. So, without the tooth there, your jaw will begin resorption and lose its volume. Make an appointment to discuss implant options with your dentist.

What is the surgery for an implant like?

Implant surgery has three steps. First, the actual implant, a screw-like titanium post, is placed in the upper or lower jawbone (depending on the area where the tooth is missing). The titanium post fuses with the bone in the jaw helping to keep the bone from deteriorating. Second, an abutment is screwed to the implant. The abutment is the piece that will join the crown to the implant. It looks like a natural tooth because it is often made of porcelain (though titanium or gold are also options) and is cut down to receive a crown. The crown is the third step, better known as the restoration. It is usually made of porcelain and is connected to the abutment. 

The surgery for dental implants is different for each dentist, so talk with yours about what to expect during the procedure. 

Surgery Complications

It is important to note that there are possible complications that can stem from implant surgery. One complication is if an infection develops or if the bite has not been properly adjusted. Grinding teeth can put additional stress on the implant and can cause bone loss or a broken/failed implant. If you experience any unusual tastes or smells originating from your implant it is a sign of bacteria growth and you’ll need to see your dentist right away. You should also see your doctor if the tooth hasn’t been fitting comfortably in your mouth. 

How do I take care of my implant?

Not only do implants look like real teeth, but they also act like them too. They are strong and durable, which means you can brush, floss, and eat just like you normally would, though you should use soft-bristled brushes and low-abrasive paste. You may notice that a dental hygienist will use different instruments for your implant than the rest of your teeth to avoid scratching. Scratches in the crown can attract and harbor bacteria, which is why instead of using metal scalers and curettes, hygienists will use plastic instruments. 

How long will my implant last? 

Unfortunately, nothing lasts forever, especially when it’s experiencing the wear and tear of teeth. Dental implants, meaning the titanium posts, can last the entirety of your life because they are not exposed to the same damages as the abutment and crown. However, the other two pieces typically last up to 25 years depending on the care they receive. 

If you have more questions about dental implants, the surgery, or caring for implants, we’d love to help answer them.