Implants have revolutionized dentistry over the last few decades. An implant is a titanium post placed in your jaw bone that is designed to replace the root of the tooth that was once there. A dental implant requires several months for the new bone to form around it and heal. Once the bone has adequately healed around the implant, the crown of the tooth (the portion above the gums) is fabricated and fixed on the implant by either a screw or dental cement. Your new tooth can be brushed, flossed, and used just as your natural tooth was. The implant also stimulates the bone surrounding it, ensuring that your jaw structure is maintained.
The major limiting factor in the use of implants is the amount of bone available. Once a tooth or multiple teeth are lost, the jaw bone shrinks in size and will continue to do so unless something else is placed in that area such as a dental implant. In many cases, bone can be added to the deficient area making the use of implants possible. To prevent bone loss, the dentist may suggest a bone graft to preserve the space left over from a recently extracted tooth. Areas of the back of the mouth can sometimes prove a little more challenging for implant placement if teeth have been missing for an extended period of time. For the upper back teeth, there is a sinus cavity (air cavity) above where the teeth are/were that can prevent the placement of implants. In most cases, bone can be grafted in this sinus area but requires many months of healing before implants can be placed. If the bone shrinkage is only minor in this area, bone grafting can possibly be done at the same time an implant is placed. Surprisingly, most patients experience the same or less discomfort with implant placement as they do with tooth extraction.