Information About Single Tooth Dental Implants
If your dentist finds you to be a candidate for a dental implant, he/she will refer you to a dental specialist (periodontist, prosthodontist or oral surgeon) who will conduct a thorough comprehensive examination and review your medical and dental history. This dental specialist will determine if you have a systemic disease that will contra-indicate the option for a dental implant. If there are no systemic medical issues, then he/she will take x-rays and create impressions of your teeth and gum tissue to provide an accurate model of your mouth.
A single tooth dental implant will often be recommended for people who have experienced a traumatic injury, or who did not have a tooth erupt in the anterior area of their mouth, or who have lost a posterior tooth from advanced dental decay or an unsuccessful root canal.
Advantages of a Single Tooth Implant
A single tooth dental implant may be preferable over a fixed bridge that is attached to two or more teeth. A fixed bridge is supported by other teeth and requires the dentist to cut down normal healthy teeth to support a cemented bridge. In this case, the jawbone can begin to resorb and, therefore, deteriorate. A dental implant, on the other hand, will be placed into the jawbone to serve as a root for the missing tooth. This can also help to preserve the bone.
What is an Implant?
An implant is a metal device that is surgically placed into the jawbone to replace one or more missing teeth. Your dentist will work with a dental specialist (periodontist, prosthodontist or oral surgeon) throughout the process. There are three different parts of an implant: the anchor (metal device that is inserted into the bone tissue of the upper or lower jaw), the abutment (also a etal device that is attached to the anchor by a center screw and connects the abutment to the prosthetic device) and the prosthetic device (crown, bridge or denture).
The Surgical Process
At your first surgical appointment, the dental specialist will numb the area for your implant with local anesthesia. The gum tissue will be cut and then flapped back. The dental specialist will expose the underlying bone and begin to drill the bone for the implant. Once the hole is drilled into the bone, the dental implant anchor will be inserted into this area. The gum tissue will then be reflapped back into place and the area will be sutured over the implant anchor.
Implants placed in the lower jaw will take 3-6 months to heal, and in the upper arch will take 4-6 months because the bone of the upper arch is less dense than that of the lower arch.
Picture of a single tooth implant.
Surgical Process – Step 2
The dental specialist will numb the area of the implant and then flap the gum tissue back to expose the implant anchor. The abutment will be attached to the implant anchor. The gum tissue is then reflapped around the implant, with the abutment protruding through the gum tissue, and resutured. A healing cap is placed to allow the gum tissue to heal. After 2-4 weeks, the healing cap is removed and the abutment is then uncovered.
Picture of abutment attached to the implant.
Surgical Process – Step 3
The dentist will require the patient to make 1-2 visits to fabricate the crown. The crown will be placed on the abutment. The dentist will ensure that the crown is seated properly for the patient.
Picture of crown placed on the abutment and implant.
Caring for the Implant
The dental hygienist will discuss how to care for the implant and clean it to keep the gum tissue healthy. It is important to prevent plaque biofilm from forming around the implant by flossing at least once a day and brushing at least twice a day. Visit your dentist as recommended for a professional cleaning appointment. Make sure you let your dentist or dental specialist know if something is not comfortable with your implant.