Proper care for teeth and gums, a good personal hygiene routine, and regular dentist visits are essential to maintaining oral health. Having regular checkups with a dentist is far better than just normal brushing and tooth flossing alone. Despite these practices, you can still lose your teeth. Therefore, you may be considering a dental implant to resolve missing teeth. Washington Dental in Lomita, CA provides the experience, care, and expertise needed in order to properly plan and place dental implants.

Definition of Dental Implants

A Dental implant refers to titanium posts that are compressed and surgically fitted into the jaw of the mouth. A dental implant fitting is done to replace a tooth that is broken or missing. Basically, artificial teeth are fitted onto the implant, although they resemble natural teeth in appearance and feel. The implants are permanently fixed into the mouth jaw, hence, acts as the best solution for tooth replacement.

Dental implants are strong and durable; but regularly visiting the dentist, brushing, and flossing will serve the patient time from any other complications that may arise after receiving implants. However, you can also adequately take care of your missing teeth by regularly undergoing denture relining. Still, this is limited to a certain period because both partial and full dentures should be replaced due to the changes that occur in the structure of the mouth. Additionally, if you opt to replace missing teeth with bridges, it is prudent to replace bridges after every decade despite proper care. Therefore, the only permanent way of replacing the missing teeth is through dental implants.

Dental implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone, therefore, are not visible in outward appearance just like the natural root of the tooth. Dental implants are mainly used in securing the tooth crown (the visible parts of a tooth), they can also be used to secure dental bridges and dentures. Titanium is the type of metal that is most commonly used in dental implants.  These metals are also used in replacement of orthopedic joints and are strong enough to last a lifetime. The titanium metal used is strong, biocompatible, and light. The attributes of titanium make it the most suitable metal to use for dental implants since the metal is readily accepted into the body. Additionally, osseointegration is the natural process for the fusing of the jaw bones to the titanium. Thus, biologically, the use of titanium is one of the major reasons for successful dental implantation.

A dental crown can be supported by the use of one dental implant in the jawbone. To replace all teeth, substituting the removable dentures with those that are supported with implants is the best choice because it creates a secure and comfortable fit. Lower denture floaters can be stabilized by using dental implants called min implants. The min implants are not too wide like the traditional implants, therefore, can be minimally inserted without an incision. They require a little amount of anesthesia which is injected locally at the specific location where the min implant will be implanted. Therefore, recovery time is reduced and patients feel less discomfort after implanting min implants.

Dental Services Related to Dental Implant

Root canals and crowning are common practices that go in hand with dental implants in that it helps save a deteriorating tooth. A root canal can help in saving the natural teeth in case of decay. The pulp cavity of the tooth that is infected is removed and cleaned. A plant material called gutta percha can be used to fill the hollow part of the tooth and the crown can be cemented on top. The tooth will be firm and functional.

On the other hand, dental crowns are placed on top of the metal post on the implant. There are several different crowns that can be chosen.  Each type of crown is beneficial in its own way. For instance, metal crowns have strength while the porcelain crown resembles natural teeth. A crown with porcelain on the exterior with a metal interior provides sturdiness with aesthetic value.

Tooth Loss and Dental Implants

Tooth loss can be traumatizing. An individual who is dealing with this problem can find it hard to smile or laugh in front of others. Losing teeth during a young age is a natural process of development as well as losing teeth during old age. However, lack of oral hygiene and failure to visit the dentist regularly can make you prone to tooth decay as well as diseases of the gum. Failure to treat infections in the gum can cause periodontal disease which facilitates tooth loss. In cases of malnutrition and eating unbalanced food, one can be prone to tooth loss as well. Additionally, if you are actively involved in activities such as any contact sports, proper use of a mouth guard is necessary to protect your teeth and prevent any tooth loss.

Loss of teeth is typically a result of the loss of the bone in the area that supports the teeth. Dental implants are placed in the jawbone for stabilization and prevention of damage. Not only do implants replace the tooth that is lost but also maintains the shape and the density of the jawbone. This implies that implants offer support to the facial skeleton, which in return, supports the structure of the gum, cheek, and lip tissues. Subsequently, through dental implants, eating, chewing, smiling, and talking is made entirely natural.

Why is Having a Dental Implant Important?

There are several options when it comes to replacing teeth. Some options like dentures aren't long-lasting. Dental implants last longer than any other methods. This method is useful in several ways:

  1. Prevents shifting of the teeth. When a tooth is lost, the remaining teeth that surround the lost tooth moves in an attempt to cover-up space. This leads to a rise in dental complications. More so, it’s hard to keep overcrowded or unevenly spaced teeth in clean condition. Having overcrowded or unevenly spaced teeth can make it more expensive for other dental care including orthodontics. Dental implants can be a solution to such problems because they help in properly spacing your teeth which will aid in cleaning and placing orthodontics.

  2. Dentures can be fit for replacement teeth and they last about 5 to 8 years. However, dental implants with permanent crowns last the entire duration of a patient’s life! Through proper care, you will be able to enjoy your dental implants for a lifetime.

  3. Relieves pain. While using removable dentures, there is a probability of encountering soreness inside the mouth. In addition, continuous night removal of dentures for clean-up before going to sleep can be tiresome and inconvenient. This is not the case for dental implants. Dental implants do not impose soreness in the mouth after they have been fully healed and have no set routines such as removing and cleaning.

  4. Maintains facial appearance. Loss of teeth deteriorates the jawbone making the face to appear sunken — dental implants deposits useful dense and non-toxic materials into the jaw bone, which keeps jaw from deteriorating and keeps the face looking full and young.

  5. No problems encountered during eating. Removable dentures can make eating problematic because they can possibly slide off while eating hard to chew foods. Dental implants enable proper chewing of food because they work similarly to natural teeth. One can enjoy the natural function in eating when using dental implants.

Dental Examination and X-Ray

A dental exam is done by a thorough cleaning of the teeth to eliminate plaque and bacteria that may be present. This then helps in investigating if the tooth has decay or any other weakness. The gums are also checked for the presence of periodontal diseases, and if need be, a dental X-ray is taken to know the conditions under which the tooth and the gum are in. The tooth examination can also be helpful as it can involve an oral screening for cancer and other possible diseases.

Dentistry is continually being modernized; digitized X-rays are being used for diagnosing most dental problems. The X-rays transmit into the soft tissues of the tooth but gets absorbed by the densely lying tissues. This produces a quality image that shows the teeth structure in the jaw bone. Digital X-rays have a high-quality resolution and highlight more details than traditional ones. In addition, Digital X-rays’ radiation is lower compared to previous X-rays, which allows the procedure to be safer for the patient. Therefore, tooth problems such as decaying, deteriorating jaw bone, thinned teeth fissures, and wisdom teeth that are impacted are easily detected by the Digital X-ray. The dental X-rays assist in checking how teeth develop and check progress in children, hence monitoring the health of the teeth for the prevention of infections.

The Implant Procedure

Implant surgery procedure involves: (a) the replacement of the roots of a tooth with metal posts that look like screws; (b) artificially replacing the teeth that are damaged or missing with another one that resembles and functions in the same way as the lost or damaged one. It is an alternative way of solving problems encountered without the use of dentures and bridges — the manner in which the surgery is done puts into consideration the kind of implant as well as the condition of the jawbone. 

The surgery is procedural until proper healing is attained. The dental implants are inserted into the jawbone through surgery. Here, they will function as roots for the missing teeth. The titanium helps the implants to fuse with the jawbone making it hard for the implants to shift inside the mouth. Unlike the bridges and dentures, dental implants prevent further damage to the jawbone.

The patient is thoroughly prepared before undergoing the process of dental implants. They are taken through a dental examination as discussed earlier. After the examination, the patient is taken through a treatment plan. Based on the situation of the dental problem, the dental treatment plan accounts for the number of teeth one needs to replace as well as issues of the jawbone. The process of planning out the treatment is an ongoing task done by various specialists, periodontists, and the dentist that will schedule for the implant to be done. One’s medical condition along with the medicines prescribed should be made known to the dentist for proper treatment. For those with heart complications and/or orthopedic implants, antibiotics would be prescribed before surgery for the prevention of infections.

Local, general, and sedation options of anesthesia are used for pain control before surgery. One should talk to their specialists to select the best choice of anesthesia. Based on the kind of anesthesia administered, the patient will be advised to eat and take recommended drinks before the commencement of the surgical procedure. On the other hand, general anesthesia is a bit more complex, the patient needs care and a day rest after the dental procedure.

The surgery undergoes the following stages:

  1. Removal of the tooth that is damaged.

  2. Jawbone preparation through bone grafting (if necessary). Thin and soft jawbones should be grafted with the bone before surgery. The reason for bone grafting is that during chewing, the mouth exerts pressure on the bone, therefore, if the bone can’t offer support to the implant, the surgery is likely to fail. This procedure involves the removal of a bone from any part of one’s body and transplanting it into the jawbone. Commercial bones (artificial bones) can be used as an alternative. It can take a couple of months for this bone to grow and offer support to the implant. In cases of minor bone grafting, the surgery can be done along with the bone grafting. Jawbone conditions dictate whether to proceed or not.

  3. After the jawbone has healed, the metal post-implant is inserted into the jawbone. Surgery is done for the insertion to take place. A cut is made on the gum which opens up and displays the bone. Thereafter, drilling of holes inside the bone is done. The dental implant is inserted into the hole and the implant will function as the root of the tooth, hence, it is inserted inside the jawbone.

  4. A Period of healing. During this period, osseointegration (fusing of the bone and the implant) takes place. This process involves the growth of the jawbone until there is a union with the dental implant surface. This process takes a couple of months; therefore, it is able to provide a strong foundation for the artificial tooth.

  5. An abutment is placed to extend the implant. After the completion of osseointegration, an abutment onto which the crown attaches can be placed. This surgery is minor and can be administered with local anesthesia. For the abutment to be placed, the gum is reopened so that the implant is seen, the abutment is mounted onto the implant, tissues around the gum are closed – but the abutment should remain exposed. There are cases where the abutment can be mounted at the same time that the dental implant is inserted, this avoids another surgery. The abutment can easily be seen when one opens their mouth despite that they are always placed beyond the gum line. The visibility should last as long as the process of tooth prosthesis is completed.

  6. After the healing of the soft tissues, the implant and the jawbone are molded together and then the final tooth is placed. The patient needs to choose the artificial tooth that will be used in replacement of the lost tooth. It takes about two to three weeks for the abutment to heal after it has been placed. The artificial tooth cannot be inserted unless the gum has completely healed and mouth impressions are made.

The artificial teeth placed on the abutment can be removable, fixed or both. Removable artificial teeth resemble removable dentures. They are artificially white with a plastic gum that is pink in color. It is placed on top of a metallic frame which is fused onto the abutment and can snap safely in place. The removable teeth can be removed, repaired, and cleaned. Fixed artificial tooth is screwed permanently on an implant abutment. More often, each crown attaches to the individual implant, but due to the strength that the implants possess, bridging allows numerous tooth replacement using a single implant.

When the procedure is done, one is likely to experience some discomfort as a result of the surgery. The gum and the face might swell, the skin and the gums might be bruised during the surgery, and the site at which the implant was placed can be painful while some patients may experience bleeding. Use of painkillers or antibiotics can be useful in case one experiences any of the problems. Consuming soft food and drink after the surgery is advisable.

Risks Encountered During the Surgery

Any form of surgery is prone to health risks, and dental implants are not the exception. Such problems rarely occur, and if they do, having an experienced dentist is important for proper treatment. These risks include: the implant site can get infected, the surrounding teeth and blood vessels can be damaged or injured, and the nerves can be damaged leading to pain in the natural teeth. The gums and lips can also be painful and numb. There are also rare incidences where the bone is unable to fuse with the metallic post-implant. This usually occurs in patients who smoke or have other gum or mouth issues. In such cases, the surgeon removes the implant, cleans the bone, and allows the patient to retry the procedure after three months.

If the surgery is successful, the patient needs to properly care for the dental work, and lengthen the life cycle of the remaining teeth through:

  1. Oral hygiene. The implants, artificial teeth, and the tissues around the gum should be kept clean. Use brushes that have a unique design like an interdental brush, which can slide between the teeth in an attempt to clean all areas of the teeth and gums;
  2. Visit the dentist. Make regularly scheduled visits with the dentist. This ensures that the implants are healthy and functioning correctly;
  3. Avoid causing damages. Hard foods can cause crown breakages. Avoid using tobacco and caffeine because they cause stains on the teeth. If the patient tends to grind their teeth, they should regularly check-in with their dentist for treatment and use a mouth guard when sleeping.

Find a Dental Implant Dentist Near Me

If you think you can benefit from gaining dental implants and keep that pretty smile. Call us to schedule a meeting with a professional dentist and see if you are a good candidate for a dental implant. Washington Dental dentists offer solutions to various dental problems you may be experiencing and are competent in many areas of dentistry. If you live near Lomita, CA or a nearby area, you can always reach out Lomita Dentist at 310-326-5183 and talk to one of our expert dentists.