A dental implant is an artificial tooth that closely resembles a natural tooth. Implants consist of three parts—the fixture, the abutment, and the implant crown. The fixture anchors into the jaw bone and functions like the artificial tooth roots. Connected to the fixture is the abutment, a small metal piece that joins the fixture to the crown. The visible tooth-looking structure that sits against the gum line is known as the implant crown.

Do I Need Dental Implants?

Depending on your unique dental needs and health, a dental implant could be an excellent solution. Of course, keeping your natural teeth is always “Plan A,” but in many circumstances, a dental implant provides a beautiful alternative. Often, an implant is not the only option to replace your tooth. Your WNC Dental dentist can provide custom options based on your oral health and specific needs. Generally speaking, however, you might be a good candidate for implants if:

  • You’re missing a highly functional tooth (i.e. important for chewing and talking)
  • You want a long-lasting replacement tooth
  • You would prefer something permanent, rather than removable
  • You’re in good health
  • You’ve already completed any other cosmetic treatment, such as teeth whitening
  • You’re committed to the implant process

Of course, implants, like so many other things in life, aren’t “one-size-fits-all.” If you have any questions about whether dental implants are right for you, be sure to talk to your dentist.

Benefits of Implants

Dental implants are not the only way to replace a missing tooth, but they do have many advantages. Often, they offer a better alternative to bridges because they are not dependent on the surrounding teeth. And, unlike removable prosthetics, like dentures, dental implants stay in the mouth. You can brush and floss them just like your natural teeth.

Lasting Durability

Made from some of the strongest materials available, like titanium, dental implants are exceptionally durable. They hold up well to normal chewing and biting. In fact, with proper care and attention, an implant should last a lifetime.

An Aesthetic Choice

Implants, like crowns, can be made to match the surrounding teeth. The difference between a beautiful dental implant and your natural teeth should be almost imperceptible. In some cases, implants can also be used to improve the aesthetics of your smile, offering a more cosmetic shape or color than the tooth it replaced.

Important Considerations

Only some patients are good candidates for an implant. Your dentist will consider several factors when determining if a dental implant is your recommended treatment option.

Choosing the Least Invasive Option

First, your dentist will consider the severity of your case. If another restorative treatment, such as a dental filling, onlay, or crown is an option, your dentist might suggest one of those instead. These options repair, rather than completely replace your natural tooth. Typically, you’ll want to choose a treatment option that extends the life of your existing teeth longest.

Understanding Your Overall Health

Your overall health is also a key consideration. Dental implants likely won’t be well suited to patients with chronic illnesses and certain other conditions. That’s because these all affect the body’s ability to heal well. Implants are less likely to fail when the surgical site heals properly.

Sequencing Cosmetic Treatment

If you plan to undergo any cosmetic treatment, like teeth whitening, you’ll want to complete that before proceeding with a dental implant. While the shade of your natural enamel can be lightened or brightened with cosmetic treatment, the implant crown stays the same color. So, your implant will stand out if it’s matched to the “before” of your smile, rather than the “after” version.

Assessing Ideal Placement

Even in healthy patients, some areas of a patient’s smile simply won’t be well-suited to a dental implant. The thickness of the jaw bone at a particular spot, tooth root structure, crowding and spacing of other teeth, and the anatomy of the face and head can all influence whether or not an implant is a good solution to replace a tooth. Our dentists are skilled at assessing patients to determine the ideal placement with the best chances of success.

Implants at WNC Dental

Most general dentists only restore implants, meaning they deliver only the abutment and crown portion of the implant. At WNC Dental, two of our dentists have received extensive advanced training allowing them to confidently place many implants as well. Many of our patients have the luxury of working with just their WNC Dental doctor for their entire implant case. That means no visits to expensive specialists and only one set of office visits to coordinate.

For complex cases, our dentists may refer you to a trusted oral surgeon or periodontist who will place the implant fixture. Then, after the fixture heals to the bone, our dentists can place the abutment and crown on top of the fixture.

Sometimes, patients come to WNC Dental with existing implants—either those placed by a local specialist or from years prior or a different location. In most cases, our dentists can restore such implants with a new implant crown for aesthetic or functional purposes. Our doctors can also provide routine checks during your regular dental exams to ensure your existing implants are healthy and performing well.

What to Expect for a Dental Implant

The dental implant process looks slightly different from patient to patient. As the first step, you’ll receive a thorough evaluation called an implant assessment. This covers a whole range of questions to ensure the best possible outcomes for an implant.

Next, you can expect a few visits with your dentist over several months. Rushing the implant steps can increase the chances of implant failure, so it’s important to be patient and allow for sufficient time between each step.

In general, most patients will have one visit during which the dentist will place the implant fixture beneath the gum and secure it into the bone. While the bone and tissues heal, the dentist will provide a temporary tooth to fill the space.

Once the implant has healed to the bone—a process called osseointegration—then it’s time to restore the implant. That’s when the dentist will take impressions for a dental crown that screws into the implant. While the implant crown is crafted to match your smile, you’ll receive a temporary implant crown.

Finally, you’ll receive a final appointment to restore the implant with the permanent crown. There’s nothing like the joy of seeing our patients’ beautiful new smiles.

Want to learn if a dental implant is right for you? Contact us to request an appointment with one of our kind and knowledgeable dentists.