A dental implant is a metal root substitute that is placed into the jaw bone. Implant therapy is among the most natural and reliable way a dentist has to replace one or more teeth that have been lost.
Implant treatment first involves careful planning and coordination between the restorative dentist and the surgeon who will place the implant. After exploring issues such as location, angulation, bone density and understanding the final restorative design, the implant fixture is placed by the surgeon and usually is covered over with soft (gum) tissue. It is left this way for a period of months during which the implant and bone fuse together, a process called integration. Once the implant fixture and bone are integrated, a second minor surgical procedure is performed to remove the soft tissue covering the implant fixture and expose it for restoration.
At this point, the implant is stronger and more firmly attached to the bone than a natural tooth. It can be used as the foundation upon which to build a single replacement crown or multiple implants may be used to anchor bridges replacing numerous missing teeth. Additionally, implants can be used to supply anchorage to a denture replacing most or all of the missing teeth from an entire dental arch.
While implants are not teeth and can’t decay, they are still susceptible to bone loss and infection like natural teeth and require careful cleaning and maintenance procedures by the patient and dental hygienist.