One of the greatest revolutions in modern dentistry is the success of dental implants. Dental implants can be used to restore a single tooth or multiple teeth. If a tooth must be removed and the patient is planning to have an implant to replace it, it is important to know what to expect. Typically, the tooth will be removed and a graft material will be placed in the socket. The graft material is specially bioengineered to help provide the scaffolding for the patient’s own cells to fill in the void that the root previously filled. The graft material, which looks like kosher salt, fills in the space that the root once occupied and is sutured into place. Sometimes a membrane may be placed over the graft to help cover the area. After a few months, the extraction site should be adequately healed, and ready for implant placement. Most patients say that the placement of the implant is easier than the removal of the tooth. The implant itself it is roughly the same shape as the tooth root. It’s important to know that the day the dental implant is placed, patients will not leave with a tooth on the implant (if the area is of cosmetic concern, a temporary tooth can be placed). The dental implant needs time to integrate (or fuse) to the bone before it can withstand the force of chewing. Also, the gum tissue around the implant needs time to heal. While patients will not leave with a tooth on the implant the day that the implant is placed, they will likely leave with something called a healing cap. This small cylinder shaped attachment will act to mold the gum tissue prior to restoration. Once the implant is fully integrated, the healing cap will be removed, an impression post will be placed, and an impression will be taken. The healing cap is then returned and the impressions are sent to the dental laboratory where a custom abutment and crown will be fabricated. A custom abutment is very much like a prepared tooth that screws on to the implant. The crown is then cemented onto the abutment. The advantages to dental implants over fixed or removable bridges, are the preservation of supporting bone and gum tissue, implants never decay, and with proper maintenance, will last longer than the recipient.
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