Dental implants are artificial tooth roots. They usually look like screws and they go into the jaw bone on the upper or lower or as high as the cheekbone. Essentially they are artificial roots to anchor a missing tooth or a section of teeth or all of your teeth.
Once implanted, they actually integrate into your jaw bone. The screw goes into the bone. It’s generally threaded. It’s drilled into place. The gum is typically opened, a round hole is drilled to exactly the right depth and width. Once the implant is in place, it goes through a process of integration. That integration, when done by an experienced provider, usually has a success rate and about 97 to 98% of the time that it will work. Some implants don’t last.
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How Do Dental Implants Work?
Video transcript lightly edited for easier readability.
How do dental implants work? Dental implants are artificial tooth roots.
They look like screws usually. They go into the upper or lower jaw bone. Some go as high as the cheekbone, called zygomatic dental implants. But they’re essentially artificial roots to anchor a missing tooth or a section of teeth or all of your teeth. The way they work is they integrate into your jaw bone. The screw goes into the bone. It’s generally threaded and it’s drilled into place. You have to open the gum, drill a round hole to exactly the right depth and width. There are a lot of parameters.
Once the implant is in place, it goes through a process of integration. That integration, when done by an experienced provider, usually has a success rate about 97, 98% of the time that it will work. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be good, but it will work.
It fuses to the bone and it becomes an artificial root. The timeline for the straight-forward dental implant would be to have the implant inserted, the gum is opened, the implant is placed, and we wait for integration to occur. Typically, on average that takes anywhere from three to six months, depending on how hard or soft the bone is.
So, it’s about the quality of the bone, how hard or soft, and the quantity. Do you have a lot of bone or do you have very little bone? A big portion of the surgical portion is waiting for integration to occur. The other part is making the tooth.
How does making the tooth work?
Typically, an implant has a screw and the implant crown or the teeth will screw onto the implant that’s in the jaw bone, so it will be securely in place. Most of my cases are non-removable.
There are overdentures that snap in and out and teeth that come in and out. I don’t provide a lot of that service because frankly, people don’t really want them. They want teeth that stay in like their original, so the teeth are either screwed in or cemented in. Sometimes they can just be one single tooth or it can be a bridge of teeth or a whole arch of teeth, the top and the bottom simultaneously.
How they work is, after the surgery, I will take some digital impressions, which is like a mold but done with a wand, and we’ll fabricate a titanium abutment. It’s something that the crown will sit on or the bridge will sit on or fuse onto, and those get screwed or cemented in the mouth.
They get delivered to you and you go through a process where you could see it, check the bite, and how it fits. Take some x-rays to make sure that it works out well, and that everything is sitting flush. That’s predominantly the process for most patients. That’s a basic look at it.
Of course, some patients need bone grafting. They don’t have enough gum or enough bone. That’s very common because once you’ve removed a tooth, the bone will begin to shrink. The bone and gum atrophies… shrinks down just as if you didn’t use this hand for a month or your arm, you’d find that your whole arm or hand would begin to shrink down a little bit if you looked at the two side by side. It gives you back some jaw function and ability to smile and look nice and it gives you your confidence back.
That’s the basics of dental implants. There’s a lot out there on the topic. Be careful of what you read about them. They’re certainly not permanent. Dental implants have a lifespan, like everything else, that I have a lot of posts specifically about revisions and redos and failures. But overall it’s got a very high success rate.
Do your due diligence when you search out your dentist for this, and that should help you at least know the basics of how dental implants work. Thanks so much.
Ramsey A. Amin, D.D.S.
Diplomate of the American Board of Oral Implantology /Implant Dentistry
Fellow-American Academy of Implant Dentistry