Dental implants are a great choice for replacing missing teeth. If you have lost one or more teeth, you might be wondering: are dental implants the right choice for me? Let us explain what makes a person a candidate for dental implants.
What Are Dental Implants?
First, it’s important to understand what are dental implants. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are designed to replace the natural root for a lost tooth. The implant bonds with the bone to create a restoration that is firmly fixed in your mouth for years, decades, even a lifetime.
Sometimes, people use the term to refer to both the artificial root and the dental crown attached to the root. But since implants can also be attached to bridges or dentures, it’s god to understand the difference.
Dental Implant Procedure
The dental implant procedure can be broken up into several phases: pre-implant surgery, implant surgery, and post-implant surgery.
This phase involves all the planning and preparation for implant surgery. During this step, you will talk to one or more dentists, get evaluated to see if you’re a good candidate, and choose your dentist. You and your dentist will discuss options for your procedure and plan the details of your procedure.
This includes whether you need additional procedures before implant surgery, such as gum disease treatment, bone graft, and tooth extraction. Sometimes, these can be handled during implant surgery.
During implant surgery, your implant dentist will place the implant in your jaw. Implants typically screw into the jaw. They can be placed in a hole that has been left by an extracted tooth, but sometimes a hole is drilled for the purpose.
At the end of implant surgery, your dentist will test the stability of the implant. Based on the stability, the dentist may finish the implant in one of three ways:
- Provisional dental crown or other restoration if the implant is very stable
- A healing cap if the implant is somewhat stable, but not ready for a restoration
- Covering the implant with gum tissue if the implant is not very stable
After implant surgery, the implant will bond with your bone. Once the implant is successfully bonded to your bone, your dentist will place a final crown on top of the implant.
Who Is a Candidate?
If you have lost or are facing the loss of one or more teeth, you might be a candidate for dental implants if you are:
- An adult whose jaw has finished growing
- Fit for surgery
- Not in the first trimester of pregnancy
We can do some consultation if you are a young adult or early in pregnancy, but we’ll want to make sure we don’t start the procedure too early. Note that while it is possible to get implant surgery during the second or third trimester of pregnancy, it’s usually best to wait until after your baby is delivered to get an implant.
Additional Treatment Required
Even if you are a candidate for a dental implant, you might need additional procedures to achieve the results you’re looking for. If you have unhealthy gums, we might recommend treating gum disease before we do your implant procedure.
If you don’t have enough bone to support a dental implant, we might recommend getting a bone graft procedure before your implant surgery. Sometimes minor bone grafts can be done at the time of implant surgery.
While people who meet the above criteria are technically candidates for dental implants, there are other factors that can impact your risk of implant failure or complications. These include:
- Smoking and tobacco use
- Alcohol and substance abuse
- Prior radiation treatment
- Some chronic diseases
- Certain medications
Smoking and tobacco use can interfere with your body’s ability to heal. They can also increase your risk of oral infection. People who smoke may have more than twice the risk of dental implant failure.
If you consume high levels of alcohol or use other drugs, you may have a higher risk of implant failure.
People with prior radiation treatment in the head and jaw may have a lower success rate for dental implants. They may also be at a higher risk for a rare complication in which the bone around the implant starts to die, called osteonecrosis of the jaw (ONJ). The risk factors are complicated, and it’s best to talk to your oncologist before getting dental implants.
Some chronic medical conditions can also increase your risk of complications, such as anemia, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, and osteoporosis.
Some medications can increase your risk of complications, such as bisphosphonates (used for osteoporosis), antidepressants, antibiotics, and even NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen).
Bruxism (teeth clenching and grinding) has been linked to early implant failure.
Improve Your Odds of Success
Even if you have some risk factors for early implant failure, there are things that you can do to improve your odds of success.
First, choose your dentist carefully. Experienced implant dentists have higher success rates.
Second, be honest with your dentist. Share all medications you are taking (including OTC medications and supplements) and all conditions you are experiencing. In many cases, special care can counter the risks related to conditions and medications.
Be prepared to quit smoking and drinking around the time of your implant procedure. It’s often good to quit altogether to give your implants the best chances of long-term success.
Make sure you follow all pre- and post-operative instructions. These instructions are designed to foster implant healing.
Watch for early signs of complications. If you see any, contact your dentist quickly to preserve the implant.
Schedule an Evaluation
Are you considering dental implants and want to know if you’re a candidate? The best way to know for sure is to talk to an implant dentist in person. The dentist will ask questions about much of what’s here, and will perform a comprehensive exam. The dentist may also use imaging such as x-rays and CT scans to plan for the procedure.