Dental implants are an excellent solution for the millions of people who have permanently lost a single tooth, many teeth or for those who use dentures. Made of materials that are compatible with human bone and tissue, dental implants provide artificial teeth that look natural and feel secure. They can also be used to attach full or partial dentures.
Dental implants offer many advantages over conventional dentures and bridges, which are often uncomfortable and, due to slippages and clicks, limit a person's ability to speak and eat normally. Because of this, many people feel self-conscious wearing their dentures. Dental implants can greatly enhance a person's quality of life by providing the following:
- Restoring normal chewing and speaking functions
- Increasing your confidence by replacing teeth that won't move or loosen and have the same look, feel and function of your natural teeth
- Eliminating irritated and painful gums, as well as damaging pressure on remaining natural teeth caused by dentures
- Helping to stop the progressive bone loss and shrinkage of your jawbone by "mimicking" the roots of natural teeth
You will first meet with one of our oral and maxillofacial surgeons, who will conduct an evaluation to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for dental implants. Patients who receive dental implants must be in good health, have a healthy lifestyle and healthy gums, adequate bone to support implants and be committed to excellent oral hygiene and regular dental visits.
If you're found to be a good candidate for the procedure, your surgeon will work in close collaboration with your dentist to develop a dental implant treatment program.
Depending on your needs, your surgeon will determine the best type of implant for you. Implants are surgically placed into the jawbone to replace one or several lost roots of teeth, and provide solid and secure support for replacement teeth.
Implant procedures are performed either in a dental office or hospital, depending on a variety of factors. A local or general anesthetic may be used to relax you during the procedure. Following surgery, pain medication and antibiotics may be prescribed if necessary.
In most cases, dental implant surgery involves two procedures. The entire process, from evaluation to completion, usually takes six to eight months.
The procedure involves two main steps:
- Placement of Implants: First, implants are surgically placed into your jawbone. These devices, which are typically made of titanium, form the framework for securely holding replacement teeth. This procedure can take up to six hours. Some patients experience minor pain and swelling immediately afterwards, although your surgeon can prescribe you a medication to relieve any discomfort.
For the next three to six months following surgery, the implants begin to bond with your jawbone beneath your gums, a process called osseointegration. During this period, you will able to wear temporary dentures, eat soft food and continue your normal daily routine.
- Placement of Artificial Teeth: Once your implants have completely bonded with your jawbone, the second phase of the procedure will be performed. Your oral and maxillofacial surgeon will uncover the implants and attach small posts that act as anchors for the artificial teeth, which are specially designed by a dentist with training in restorative techniques.
The vast majority of patients are extremely happy with their dental implants and experience a significant improvement in their quality of life. To achieve long-term success with your dental implants, proper brushing, flushing, rinsing and routine dental check-ups are essential. Your surgeon will discuss your follow-up care in more detail after your dental implant procedure.
UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.