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Dental Implantation


Having missing teeth can affect a person's self-confidence, ability to chew and eat, and sometimes even to speak with ease. The traditional solution to replacing missing or diseased teeth is dentures or bridges.

Dental implantation provides an alternative to dentures or bridges. Dental implants are small titanium screws that are inserted directly into or onto the jaw bone to replace the roots of lost teeth. They are then used as posts onto which prosthetic crowns can be affixed, or as firm support for crowns, bridges and dentures. There are several kinds of implants, but the most commonly used ones are called "root implants" because they are made to resemble the shape of a natural tooth's root.

Dental implants provide more comfort and convenience than dentures or bridges. They are firmly and permanently planted into the jaw bone, and therefore are not at risk of slipping or moving. Unlike dentures, dental implants do not require avoiding certain foods, but can basically be treated as natural teeth. In appearance, too, they are closer to that of natural teeth.

Diagnosis

A detailed oral examination is done to develop a treatment plan for patients who have chosen to have dental implants. An oral surgeon will use imaging tests such as x-rays and often CT scans to get an accurate picture of the patient's mouth. Impressions and molds of the patient's mouth will also be made.

These assessment techniques will show whether bone augmentation or other procedures need to be done to prepare the patient's mouth for implants. They will also allow the surgeon to pinpoint the exact location and angle at which the implants must be placed for the best outcome.

Treatment

Dental implantation occurs in several stages. In the first stage, a patient's mouth is prepared to receive the implants. This means doing any necessary bone augmentation or reshaping. Bone recontouring is a surgical procedure that requires bone grafting or distraction osteogenesis, and if a patient needs to have this done, a waiting period of 3-6 months is usually necessary before the next stage of implantation can be started.

Next is surgical insertion of the implants. This procedure requires local anesthesia. The gums are surgically lifted, and holes are drilled into the underlying bone at a predetermined position and angle. The implants are placed into the hole, and the gums are sutured back into place. The procedure is generally not very painful, though most patients experience some swelling and tenderness of the gums for a short time afterwards. Extra care in eating and cleaning the implant area will be necessary for a week to two. After the implants are put into place, a second waiting period of several months will allow the implants to integrate into the bone.

After several months, the surgeon will determine how well the implants have grown around the bone. If they are well-integrated by this point, a minor surgical procedure is done to expose the implant posts. Either a temporary crown or a special metal post called an "abutment" is placed on each post. Another waiting period of about eight weeks is then necessary, during which the gums start to grow around the implant similarly to the way they grow around normal teeth.

Finally, the last stage involves putting on the artificial crowns. To do this, an imprint is made of the teeth. In order to attain an appearance comparable to natural teeth, prosthetic crowns are then individually made to fit the specifications of each patient's mouth.

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