What You Need to Know About Dental Implants
Dental implants are the restoration of choice for many patients who want a long-lasting solution for replacing missing teeth. However, if you’re considering dental implants to restore your smile’s health and fullness, you may still have questions about how they may impact your lifestyle or what makes them so desirable, long-lasting, and unique.
We’ve compiled a list of the most common questions patients have about dental implants, so you can more clearly understand your tooth replacement options and make the decision that’s best for your individual smile goals and needs.
First of all, what are teeth made of?
Understanding the benefits of dental implants starts with knowing the basic anatomy of your jawbone and natural teeth, which have three main structures: the root, neck, and crown.
Jawbone and Roots
Your jawbone and teeth roots have a close relationship. Your jawbone (also known as the alveolar ridge) contains the tooth sockets that surround and nourish your teeth’s roots. Making up approximately two-thirds of your overall tooth, the root securely holds each tooth in place and houses some of your tooth’s delicate living tissues (known as pulp) in the root’s hollow center (known as the root canal).
The bond between the roots of your teeth and jawbone is formed by two connecting tissues, known as cementum and the periodontal ligament. Cementum is a bone-like material that covers the tooth root and inserts into the periodontal ligament. The periodontal ligament, which contains collagenous fibers, nerves, and blood vessels, inserts into the alveolar ridge and provides each tooth with support and nourishment.
Also known as the dental cervix, the neck of a tooth is the juncture between the root and crown at the gumline, where cementum and enamel meet. The neck connects to your gum tissue and houses the majority of your tooth’s dental pulp in a hollow space known as the pulp cavity or pulp chamber.
As it’s the only part of your tooth that’s visible above the gumline, the crown is probably the part of your tooth with which you’re most familiar. Crowns are covered with two hard tissues: enamel and dentin.
Enamel, which is the hardest and most highly mineralized tissue in your body, makes up the outermost layer of your tooth. Alongside giving your teeth their shade and sheen, enamel protects your teeth from bacteria and gives them the strength they need to withstand the force of chewing.
Located between your tooth enamel and dental pulp, dentin is a layer of mineralized tissue that protects your teeth from heat or cold and communicates with the nerves inside your teeth through microscopic tubules.
What are dental implants made of?
Like your natural teeth, implants are generally composed of three main elements: an implant post, abutment, and one or more prosthetic teeth.
Made of biocompatible titanium, an implant post is surgically placed into the jawbone to replace the root of a missing tooth or create a sturdy foundation for an implant-supported denture or bridge. During the months following implant placement, the jawbone will fuse to the implant (a process called osseointegration) and securely anchor the implant in place. In other words, implant posts integrate into your bone structure, which is why they so closely mirror the function, structure, strength, and appearance of natural teeth.
Akin to the neck of a tooth, the abutment connects an implant post and prosthetic tooth at the gumline. Once your implant posts have successfully integrated into your bone, your dentist will provide you with local anesthesia before opening your gums at the implant site and placing an abutment on top of each post.
Prosthetic (Crown, Bridge, or Overdenture)
Your prosthetic teeth will be custom-made to create an aesthetically pleasing result that matches the features of your mouth and any remaining teeth. Once your gums have healed from abutment placement, your dentist will securely attach a custom-made crown, bridge, or overdenture.
- Crown: Used to replace a single tooth, a crown is made out of porcelain, metal alloys, or a fusion of both to create a smile that is beautiful, strong, and healthy.
- Implant-Supported Bridge: Used for replacing two or more adjacent teeth, an implant-supported dental bridge is a series of dental crowns that are connected to form a continuous bridge.
- Implant-Supported Dentures: Used for replacing the entire upper or lower arch of teeth, implant-supported dentures are a set of removable prosthetic teeth (called an overdenture) that are supported by at least two dental implants. The dentures have an acrylic base that resembles gum tissue and a full arch of porcelain or acrylic prosthetic teeth.
How long will it take for me to get used to my dental implants?
Most patients go through an adjustment period when receiving any type of dental restoration, from dental implants to porcelain veneers. The tissues in your mouth have strong somatosensory innervation, which provides your brain with vivid feedback about the ongoing state and structure of your mouth. Put another way, your brain keeps close tabs on what’s happening inside your mouth and will produce a strong signal if something feels different, out of place, or amiss.
The good news is your brain will eventually become accustomed to the presence of implants, enabling most patients to forget about them entirely. In the rare event that a patient is having difficulty adjusting to their implant restoration, the solution is often a simple adjustment of the restoration’s contour (thickness) or fit.
Are dental implants removable?
Implant-supported dentures are removable to allow for optimal nightly cleaning, while implant-supported crowns and bridges are not removable, as they can be brushed and flossed like your natural teeth.
Can you sleep with dental implants?
As they are securely held in place like natural teeth, you can (and will!) sleep with a dental implant restoration completed with a crown or bridge.