Dentists recommend dental implants as the gold standard for replacing missing teeth. Implants function in the same manner as your natural teeth by supporting the jawbone. They are visually indistinguishable from your teeth and are built to last a lifetime. An implant can last up to 40 years!
The process begins with a consultation between the dentist and the patient. At this appointment, the dentist will examine the teeth, gums and bone levels to determine whether the patient is a viable candidate for implants. The appointment may include 3D x-rays (cone-beam computerized tomography) of the jaw and moulds of the teeth. The 3D x-rays help to visualize the implant placement site and are used to check bone levels to ensure implant success. Once the dentist has formulated a treatment plan, he/she will discuss it with the patient and present all available options (including options for sedation and anesthesia). Before proceeding with treatment, the dentist and the patient agree to the treatment plan.
The timeline for treatment can vary between patients based on their wants and needs. For instance, some patients require extractions, bone grafts, and/or sinus lifts. Bone grafts and sinus lifts are used to augment the amount of bone present in the lower and upper jaw, respectively. Bone loss can occur due to several reasons. Usually, it is because once a tooth is lost there is no stimulus to maintain the jawbone and it begins to resorb. Patients who have been missing teeth for several years will likely require a bone graft to strengthen the implant site and increase the chance of success. Bone loss can also occur due to periodontal (gum) disease; bacteria collects in gum pockets and slowly deteriorates the teeth and bones. It is important to have adequate bone present before placing an implant because the bone behaves as an anchor to hold the prosthesis in place. Depending on the extent of the graft, it may be performed several months before placing the implant or on the day of placing the implant.
There are two main methods of placing implants. The first is the immediate placement of the implant at the time of tooth extraction. This technique can only be used where there is enough bone present to stabilize the dental implant and the extraction site is not too large. The advantage of this technique is that it saves the patient time and reduces the number of surgeries needed. The disadvantage is that there is an increased failure rate. The second method is to extract the tooth, place a bone graft in the extraction site, and allow it to heal for about three to six months. After the healing period, the implant can be placed. The second technique has a much more predictable success rate.
After the implant is surgically placed in the jawbone, it must also heal for several months. During this period, the bone around the implant strengthens via osseointegration. This means there are no scar tissues, cartilage, or ligament fibres between the bone and the dental implant. The typical healing time for an implant in the upper jaw is six months and the lower jaw is four months. Next, the abutment is placed by removing the gum tissue which covers the top of the implant. The abutment is used to attach the crown (artificial tooth). The gums heal for about two weeks and, finally, the crown is attached to the abutment.
The crown is placed on the implant after the dentist has assessed that the jawbone is strong enough to support the tooth. To make the crown, the dentist will take more moulds of teeth to determine the appropriate shape and size. The colour of the crown is matched to the patient's natural teeth to ensure a seamless appearance.
Dental implants are eligible for a Dental Grant. We cover from 21% to 30% of your dental treatment.