Dental implants are an increasingly popular option for replacing missing teeth. That’s very good news for the 120 million Americans who are missing at least one tooth, or the 36 million who don’t have any teeth at all.
It’s particularly great for patients who want to reclaim their oral health with a replacement option closest to their original teeth.
While you may have heard about getting dental implants, you may wonder what it’s like living with them. Take a moment as our own Dr. Meriem Boukadoum here at 54th Street Dental unpacks life after dental implants.
Dental implant treatment explained
Let’s start with a quick review of getting dental implants. The process may take 6-12 months to complete, because the prosthetic needs time to fuse or heal into your natural jawbone.
It starts when Dr. Boukadoum checks whether you’re a good candidate for dental implants. She performs a thorough oral examination, and takes a series of X-rays as needed, to assess the health of your jawbone and gums.
Not only is it important that you don’t have any infections like gum disease, but you also need enough quality bone density to support dental implants.
If everything checks out, Dr. Boukadoum administers a local anesthetic and your dental surgery begins. She surgically places a metal post or screw into the socket of each missing tooth.
Then the clock starts ticking. Over the course of about 3-4 months, your body’s natural healing process kicks in. The goal is for the implant to heal in place and fuse to your jawbone, known as osseointegration.
When the healing process is complete, you return to 54th Street Dental for the next step — taking measurements and collecting information for your custom-made restoration, typically a dental crown.
Dr. Boukadoum takes impressions of your mouth and notes the color so it matches your neighboring teeth. She sends this data to a dental laboratory that makes your restorations. When she receives the crowns, she installs one on top of every implant post or screw to create your brand new tooth.
The ultimate do-over, but with important responsibilities
Spoiler alert! Dental implants are the ultimate do-over, but like most really good things in life, they come with some important responsibilities.
Follow doctor’s orders
After your final treatment appointment, Dr. Boukadoum sends you home with important oral care instructions like avoiding chewy, hard or gooey foods for a couple of weeks.
She guides you on slowly incorporating additional foods into your diet, and advises you of symptoms that might indicate that a dental implant is failing. Do yourself a favor and follow the doctor's orders.
Button up at-home hygiene care
An important part of your life after dental implants is buttoning up your at home oral care. Remarkably, your dental implant looks and functions like your natural tooth’s root once did. You have a clean slate and a brand-new healthy smile to maintain.
Brush your implants with a soft toothbrush at least twice a day, taking care to brush under and around the implant crown, and don’t forget to floss at least one a day.
You may wonder why you need to be so vigilant with an artificial tooth since it can’t decay like a natural tooth can. Cavities aren’t the issue. Poor oral hygiene can threaten the stability and integrity of the implant.
More importantly, dental implants can develop plaque buildup, just as your natural teeth once did.
In fact, there’s a particular type of bacterial plaque buildup associated with implants — peri-implantitis. It’s a type of gum inflammation that can lead to a breakdown in the bone and tissue supporting the dental implant.
Visit your provider for checkups
Similarly, routine dental checkups and professional cleanings are still a must. Your provider determines the appropriate frequency of your checkups by how many implants you have and your hygiene needs.
Since dental implants don’t have periodontal pockets like your natural teeth do, professional cleaning entails using special instruments to clean around the implant without scratching the surface.
These appointments may also include periodic radiographs to track the integrity of the bone supporting the implant.
If you’ve been considering dental implants and want to learn more, contact us today by using the online booking tool to request an appointment, or call our office in the Midtown West neighborhood of New York City at 212-333-3200.