Nowadays, dental implants are considered the standard of care for replacing single or multiple missing teeth. A dental implant is a fixture made of titanium alloy that is usually used to replace the root of a missing tooth in the fully or partially edentulous patient.
Once an implant is placed in the jaw bone (upper or lower), it is left in place and dormant for a few weeks (6-8 weeks in general) until they fuse with the surrounding bone, a process called osseointegration. Afterward, a crown is placed on top of the metal fixture and the implant with the crown should function like a normal tooth.
Implants can be used to replace one or more fixed teeth or a removable prosthesis to provide teeth with greater stability.
Dental implants are inserted either immediately after a tooth extraction or after partial or complete bone healing (early vs late). Sometimes, the areas receiving the implants are not adequate in terms of quantity or quality of the soft or bone tissue, and therefore preparatory surgery might be needed before implant placement. These preparatory procedures include bone grafting or soft tissue grafting.
Dental implants are the most costly option for tooth replacement and the patient must realize that a joint effort between him or her and the dental professional is necessary to ensure proper hygiene and prolong their life.
Although rare, implant placement could be associated with a number of complications including infection, bleeding, nerve injury or failure. The success rate of implants is between 93 and 95 % and depends on several factors including general patient health, smoking history, medications, type of force put on the implant during use, and oral hygiene.