Implant Dentistry: Single Tooth Implants
Single tooth implants are an exellent way to replace a single missing tooth. Because implants act as an artificial root for a false tooth or crown, they function almost exactly like a natural tooth.
It is very important to replace missing teeth, because missing teeth leads to bone loss and the shifting of other teeth over time as they "cave in" to fill the space. This can lead to many problems, including, difficulty chewing, tooth decay and jaw pain.
The Initial Procedure
The modern osseointegrated implant, a solution benefiting millions of patients since the early 1970s, is composed of two parts: the titanium base and a tooth-like porcelain crown. On the first day of treatment, a titanium base is screwed past the patient's gums and deep into the jawbone. This is sometimes facilitated by the drilling of preliminary pilot holes. Titanium is considered a bioactive metal. This means that the implant will not be rejected by the body's systems and, in fact, "fools" the surrounding bone tissue into accepting it as a natural tooth.
The dentist will then install a temporary cap which both protects the healing tissue and helps mold the gingiva (gum tissue) into a more natural shape. The patient is generally sedated with a local anesthesia for this first procedure, though sedation options will vary from patient to patient.
The patient should allow three to six months for the healing process to complete. During this period, osteoblasts (bone tissue cells) actually grow into and around the groves and rough edges of the titanium screw. This bonding of bone with metal provides the implants with an extremely robust structural foundation.
The temporary cap allows for safe and normal chewing activity during the healing process.
Once the gum and bone tissue has healed, the dentist will remove the temporary cap and affix a permanent tooth-shaped crown to the implant base. The crown is made from a highly durable porcelain, custom-designed to perfectly match your smile's shape and color.
Finally, the patient has a single tooth implant that will function very similar to the natural tooth it is replacing.