What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. The benefit of using implants is that they don’t rely on neighbouring teeth for support and they are permanent and stable. Implants are a good solution to tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth.
The most widely practiced method of placing dental implants is a “staged surgery” procedure. The first stage consists of surgically burying the implant (which replaces the tooth root) flush with the bone but underneath the gum. This protects the implant from force while it is healing. At the end of this healing period, the implant needs to be surgically exposed by removing some of the overlying gum.
The surgeon checks the implant for its successful integration and connects some form of post which penetrates through the gum into the mouth. This post is called the abutment. Abutments come in many forms and can be stock-manufactured or custom-molded by your dentist and a laboratory. The gum is allowed to heal around the abutment and form a cuff or collar through which the dentist has access to the implant when preparing the final restorative stage of placing the prosthetic tooth or teeth.
Research has shown that it is often possible to place a suitable abutment at the same time as the implant. This has certain limitations but can eliminate the need for a second surgery to expose the implant. However, the implant still requires adequate healing time for the bone to osseointegrate.
The abutments must also be protected from chewing forces during this period to assure effective bony integration and successful healing. Once the implants have had a chance to heal and have been tested for successful integration, the final restorative step takes place. This stage consists of fabricating and connecting the prosthetic teeth to the successfully osseointegrated implants.
Sometimes a referral will be given to the local Oral Surgeon for the implant process.