If you have lost a tooth or several teeth, your dentist may suggest you have dental implants. Read on for a summary of the implant process to help you decide whether implants are the best fit for you.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are small titanium posts that are surgically inserted into your jaw, below the line of your gums. Your dentist will use these posts to mount crowns, which will look and feel like new teeth. Implants are a popular choice because after they are inserted, they actually fuse with your jawbone. This means dental implants are unable to wiggle lose in the way that dentures can and, unlike bridges, implants don't cause tooth decay because they don't need to be anchored to your surrounding teeth for support. The solid support that implants provide can also improve your speech in a way that dentures are unable to do.

Are dental implants right for you?

Not everyone has the right set of circumstances to support implants. Dental implants may be the right choice for you if:

  1. You have a missing tooth or teeth.
  2. Your gums are healthy.
  3. Your jawbone is fully grown and you have adequate bone to accommodate implants. In some cases a soft or thin jaw can be supported with a bone graft.
  4. There is enough room between your jaw and sinuses. If they are too close together, you may benefit from a sinus lift.
  5. Your general bodily health won't affect the healing of your jawbone.
  6. You're patient! Because dental implants need the jawbone to heal around them to provide solid support, the process takes place over several months, and you will undergo a few procedures before your implants are complete.

What can you expect if you choose dental implants?

The process of receiving implants is long and complex. Here's a basic rundown on what to expect.

  1. Examination: Receiving implants starts with a thorough dental examination. Your dentist will ask you about your medical history and any medication you take, and they may take x-rays of your teeth and jaw or even create a model of your mouth.
  2. Planning: Your examination and the structure and health of your teeth and jaw will help your dentist draw up a treatment plan. In doing this, your dentist may consult specialists such as a periodontist or maxillofacial surgeon to ensure your unique needs are met. Your dentist will also consult you about your options for anesthesia during your surgery.
  3. Surgery: Dental implants take place in stages, with the entire process generally taking between 3 and 9 months, and sometimes longer, to complete. The basic stages include removal of damaged teeth, preparing your jawbone for surgery, implanting the metal posts in your jawbone and installing your new crowns, or artificial teeth.

Choosing dental implants is a complex decision, and deciding whether implants are right for you is a decision not to be taken lightly. If you do opt for implants, you can expect to enjoy a strong and healthy mouth for many years to come.