If you’re missing teeth, having pain or unhappy with your smile, you might be a candidate for dental implants. We spoke with Wellington, FL cosmetic dentist Sam S. Sadati, DDS to learn about dental implants and how they can benefit you for decades to come.
What are dental implants?
Unlike a crown or a dental bridge, an implant is actually embedded into the jawbone, just like the root of a real tooth. They can be used to replace just one tooth all the way up to a full mouth of teeth depending on the needs of the patient. In fact, implants are so effective that these days, dentists prefer non-removable teeth anchored to implants rather than old-fashioned removable dentures.
“We want to secure patients’ teeth using implants in their mouth; something that they don’t have to take out and keep in a glass of water,” Dr. Sadati explains. “That’s the whole idea of implants; we want to give patients something that is fixed, comfortable and healthy, and that will function properly.”
Dental implants are comprised of a few parts: the titanium screw base that is embedded into the jawbone, the abutment which serves as a connecting piece for the screw and the crown, and lastly the crown itself. Together, the implant works like a new natural tooth.
“Implants are supposed to last a very long time if not a lifetime,” Dr. Sadati says. “That depends on how well patients take care of them, and on the patient’s health, but with maintenance they could be expected to last a lifetime.”
Who should get dental implants?
“Because a dental implant is a replacement for any missing teeth, a person might be missing one tooth or several teeth,” Dr. Sadati explains. “But implants may also be an option for teeth that are out of shape and damaged to the point of needing to be extracted. The patient might even need all their teeth extracted and replaced with implants and restoration.”
Implants vs. bridges
Usually, an implant is considered in comparison to a traditional bridge, which works by placing crowns over healthy natural teeth and ‘bridging the gap’ of missing teeth with artificial ones. In a traditional bridge, nothing is implanted into the bone, so the resulting bite is usually weaker and doesn’t stop the bone loss that happens as soon as we lose teeth. They are also expected to last around 10-15 years, significantly less than an implant.
According to Dr. Sadati, almost anyone can be a good candidate for an implant, as long as they’re committed to caring for them. “A good candidate would be somebody who is committed to proper home care,” Dr. Sadati says. “We can almost always graft bone into place if they do not have enough bone volume that is needed to place the implants. Ultimately, someone who is missing teeth or has pain in their teeth, someone who is not comfortable with the way their teeth look or feel, all of those people are good candidates. You want someone who cares enough for their oral health to keep up the maintenance of the implant.”
What is the process like?
Like all procedures, it really depends on the patient. “After a consultation, we use 3D imaging to see how much bone the patient has and the overall condition of their mouth,” Dr. Sadati explains. “Then we design how many teeth we are replacing and how many implants would be needed to secure those teeth and in what exact position in the jawbone they need to be placed.”
Depending on the condition of the patient’s jawbone, at the same appointment that the implant is surgically placed, a temporary restoration can be fitted over that too.
“If the patient has a tooth that needs to be extracted or if they need to get bone grafted before they can have the implant in” Dr. Sadati says, “we can provide some provisional restoration so that the patients are not walking around with missing teeth. But usually, we’re able to do an extraction and immediately place an implant and a temporary crown. “
The temporaries are an important step in this process. “We put temporary crowns over an implant to help prepare the bedding of the gum for the new final tooth,” Dr. Sadati says. “We’re trying to manipulate and direct the gum so that it forms around the temporary tooth to make it look as if the tooth is coming off or erupting from the gum like a natural too. We need to make that out of temporary material because we might have to add material or shave the temporary to achieve the best gum architect before proceeding with the fabrication of the final restoration that is made from porcelain. We cannot add material to porcelain, but we can do it to temporary material which is acrylic.
Color matching implants
Your final crown will also need to be color matched to look like it belongs in your mouth. This might mean accepting that your existing teeth aren’t as shiny white as you want.
“Ultimately the choice of shade and color belongs to the patient, and I make sure that I give patients what they want, but I do tell them that I recommend a more natural shade than a very white shade” Dr. Sadati explains. “I like to blend the color based on their existing teeth, their skin color, and their eye color.”
If a white smile is what you want, there’s more work to be done first.
“A lot of people are looking for whiter and more whiter teeth, so often they will ask me for very white teeth,” Dr. Sadati says. “If they are looking for a whiter smile, they have to have their teeth bleached first. We must get them as white as they can be or as white as the patient desire first and then match the new teeth to the surrounding bleached teeth.”
Dental implant maintenance
An implant can last a lifetime, but one requirement is proper care.
“The best thing patients can do to extend the life of their implant is proper home care,” Dr. Sadati says. “That includes brushing, flossing, and using a Waterpick. I emphasize a lot that the quality of their home care is the difference between long lasting implants and implants that are not in good shape.”
To ensure the health of your implant, you’ll also need to visit a qualified dentist a bit more frequently than twice a year. This is because any potential issues like gum disease, teeth grinding, chipping, or damage, need to be addressed quickly for the health of the implant.
“We want you to see the dentist and the hygienist more often than a regular dental patient so that they can catch things going wrong with your implant early,” Dr. Sadati explains. “If someone is grinding their teeth, we must pay attention to the reason they’re grinding and what’s called occlusion. Occlusion is how the top and bottom teeth meet. We need to make sure that the grinding, and/or any other unusual issue do not cause any damage to the supporting bone around the implant compromising the health of the implant.”
And any failure in the supporting structure needs to be caught quickly. “If we’re able to catch a those early, we might be able to save the implant,” Dr. Sadati says. “If it’s too far gone then the only option is to remove and place a new one.”