Dental implants are titanium posts that are implanted in the jaw bone and used to support a prosthetic tooth or crown. Because implants are designed to mimic the shape, attachment and function of a natural tooth, they have become a very popular alternative to dentures and bridges following tooth loss.
Dental implants begin with an assessment of the jaw to determine if there is sufficient bone to support the implant. When bone is too thin for adequate support, a bone graft procedure may be performed to augment bone using the patient's own bone or bone from a tissue bank. In most cases, grafts can be placed at the same time the post is implanted. Several weeks will pass between the first and second office visits to enable the post to fuse with the bone. At the second visit, a special piece called an abutment will be attached to the post and an impression will be made and sent to a lab so the crown can be custom made. During the third visit, the crown will be attached to the abutment and buffed for a comfortable fit.
As long as implants are properly cared for with regular brushing and flossing and twice-yearly office visits to prevent gum disease, they can last as long as a natural tooth.
Implants are designed like a natural tooth, so they can be much more comfortable than a denture or bridge, and there also is no risk of slippage and no need to use adhesives. Plus, implants help promote the natural replacement cycle of bone tissue, providing the same stimulation as a natural root. Neither bridges nor dentures can accomplish that function, and that means the bone will atrophy over time, increasing the risk of additional tooth loss.
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