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If one or more of your teeth are missing, there are a number of ways to replace them. An alternative to bridges, partials or complete dentures may be dental implants. Implants are used to replace missing roots and support artificial replacement teeth. They are comfortable and look like natural teeth.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is an artificial root made of titanium metal. It is inserted into the jawbone to replace the root of the natural tooth. An artificial replacement tooth is attached to the implant. The implant acts as an anchor to hold the replacement tooth in place.
Who does this procedure?
If you are having an implant, your dentist may refer you to a dental specialist who has further training in this area. Specialists who place implants are periodontists or oral and maxillofacial surgeons, also called oral surgeons. Specialists who place crowns, bridges and dentures on implants are called prosthodontists.
Who can get dental implants?
If you are in good general health, have healthy gums and have enough bone in the jaw to hold an implant, dental implants might be right for you. If your jawbone has shrunk or if it has not developed normally, you may be able to have a bone graft to build up the bone. A bone graft is a way of adding new bone to your jawbone. Your dentist or dental specialist will tell you if bone grafting can be done.
How dental implants are done
A dental implant is inserted into the jawbone.
An abutment is attached to the implant.
The abutment connects the artificial tooth to the implant.
An artificial tooth is attached to the abutment.
Properly fitting the artificial tooth may take several appointments.
A fixed bridge is anchored to dental implants to replace one or more teeth.
A fixed bridge is anchored to dental implants to replace all teeth.
Caring for my dental implant(s)
Because dental implants are placed in the jawbone, artificial replacement teeth attached to implants look and act much like natural teeth. Like natural teeth, implants need to be kept clean using a toothbrush and floss. Your dentist will show you the proper cleaning procedure for implants. Regular dental checkups are important so your dentist can make sure that your bite is right and that your implants are not loose.
What else should I know?