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What is implant dentistry?

Dental implants and dentures replace missing teeth

A dental implant is a permanent, long-lasting solution for replacing missing teeth. Considered the “gold standard” in tooth replacement, dental implants have success rates 95% and higher in nonsmokers. Plus they look, feel and function most like natural teeth.

The dental implant process involves two parts. During the first part, a dental specialist trained in implant placement, such as a periodontist or oral surgeon, places a titanium “post” into the supporting bone below the gum. We then allow the area to heal.

Once healed, usually three to six months after implant placement, our dentist places a permanent tooth crown painlessly. During this second part of the process, surrounding teeth are left untouched. Caring for the implant is the same as caring for a natural tooth. Implants can last many years and can be a cost-effective, long-term tooth replacement option whether they are placed singly, to support a bridge or under dentures.

Not your grandparents dentures and partials

Partial and full dentures have been around for a very long time. Thanks to modern technology and materials, and vastly improved fitting techniques, today’s dentures and partials not only replace missing teeth but can improve your appearance dramatically. We use partial dentures to fill gaps in teeth and full dentures to replace all of the upper and/or lower teeth.

Our dentist first creates a dental mold of your mouth and sends it to a lab. The lab creates a finished denture that gives the appearance of a full set of beautiful teeth. We can also use different techniques to minimize excessive denture movement either by creating “clasps” on the denture to hold it in place or by relining an existing denture to improve the fit and make it feel more snug. It’s also important to note that dentures and partials can also be permanently anchored with titanium posts. In implant dentistry, these are called implant-supported dentures.

Implant dentistry is the “gold standard”

When it comes to replacing missing teeth, implant dentistry is generally considered the “gold standard,” and implant restorations are your best option for a variety of reasons. Dental implants most closely fit, feel and function like healthy, natural teeth. They allow you to confidently eat, smile, talk, laugh, kiss and enjoy everyday activities without worrying about your loose dentures or how your smile looks to the outside world.

Dental implants function as artificial tooth roots that are similar in shape to screws. When placed in your jawbone, dental implants bond with your natural jawbone. As jawbone tissue grows around each implant in a process called osseointegration, it becomes a secure foundation for one or more artificial teeth, called dental crowns or implant restorations. This jawbone tissue growth around the titanium screw acts like a tight glove to hold the implant in place. These crowns are the final step of the implant dentistry process. Your dentist will affix the crown to an abutment that sits atop the actual titanium implant and acts as a stable base for the implant restoration.

What are the benefits of implant dentistry?

Patients who have had both dentures and implants say they much prefer implants. Dental implants fit and function just like your natural teeth. You don’t have to remove them to sleep and they never need fillings or root canals. With proper care, dental implants can last decades, if not a lifetime. Once you have dental implants, you’ll be able to do everything you do with your own natural teeth. You will be able to eat whatever you want (preferably good, nutritious foods and beverages), smile confidently, talk, laugh, sneeze and kiss a loved one, without worrying whether the dental implant will come loose or fall out completely.

What to expect from your implant dentistry procedure

You will need to be patient if you are having one or more dental implants performed. The healing process once the screw is placed usually requires a few months, during which time you will be without that tooth. Your dentist or implant specialist will take complete X-rays of your mouth, including panoramic X-rays to reveal your entire jawbone and tooth structure. These X-rays will allow him or her to precisely calculate the entry point and angle of placement for your new dental implant.

You will then be numbed before your implant is placed. After implant placement, your dentist will apply gauze in your mouth to absorb and control bleeding. You will receive extra gauze you can use at home until the bleeding stops. This might take up to an hour or more. Follow your dentist’s instructions regarding what to eat and drink after your implant procedure to help speed healing.

You will return to your dentist in 3 to 6 months after implant placement to confirm that your mouth and gum tissues have healed sufficiently to complete your implant. Implant restorations are the final steps in the process. You should know that modern dental implants and implant restorations have been used successfully for over 30 years. They are the strongest method for supporting replacement teeth, and they allow your new implant restorations to feel, look and function naturally.

How long does the dental implant process take?

Each patient is different. After the initial consultation, your implant dentist will provide you with a treatment plan including an estimated amount of time to completion. Total treatment time depends on your needs, jawbone condition, medical and dental history and the materials and technique your dentist uses. It can take as little as a few months or as long as a year for complex oral health conditions.

Implant dentistry is safe and predictable

In the hands of a trained, experienced dental implant dentist, implant dentistry surgery is one of the safest and most predictable procedures in all of dentistry. Some facts about dental implants:

  • Dental implants are the only restoration option that preserves your natural bone by actually stimulating jawbone growth and osseointegration.
  • 3 million Americans already have dental implants, with 500,000 new implant patients being added annually.
  • In 1951, a group of dentists who had already successfully placed dental implants formed the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID) to share their knowledge on implant dentistry and surgical techniques. AAID was the first professional association in the world dedicated to implant dentistry.
  • In 1952, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon discovered that titanium metal naturally fuses with human bone. He eventually switched his research focus to the mouth after exploring uses in the knee and hip.

It is normal to feel post-implant surgery discomfort and similar to that of any other dental surgery. You may experience bruising, swelling, minor bleeding and/or pain, but most patients manage their pain with over-the-counter medications (e.g. Tylenol or ibuprofen).

What are implant restorations?

Before your implant restorations can be placed, your dentist will add a metal connector called an abutment on top of the dental implant to hold and support your implant restorations. These dental crowns are custom-made to match your natural teeth in size, shape and color and fit your mouth precisely. Every implant restoration is customized just for your mouth. Once your implant bonds with your jawbone, we place the abutment on the dental implant just above the gum line. In some cases, we place the abutment at the same time as the implant.

Once the abutments are in place, your dentist can add your implant restorations, the dental crowns that complete the implant dentistry process and give your new teeth the finishing touch. After your gums heal, your dentist will take impressions of your remaining teeth in order to customize your new artificial teeth – your implant restorations.

What are the different types of implant restorations?

Your implant restorations can be individual dental crowns, an implant-supported bridge or dentures (full or partial) with multiple replacement teeth, which will be attached to abutments. Although implant restorations don’t suffer decay like natural teeth, your new teeth will need the same routine care, checkups and cleanings as your natural teeth in order to keep your smile looking great.

What are implant restorations made of?

Just as with other dental crowns and bridges, implant restorations can be made of porcelain, acrylic, porcelain over metal or all metal depending on your needs, preferences and budget.

What makes implant restorations better than dentures or bridges?

With dental implants, you’ll look and feel great. They fit and function like your own healthy, natural teeth. They’re incredibly comfortable so you won’t have to think about them once healing is complete. You will brush and floss just as you care for your natural teeth. Unlike dentures, you won’t have to remove them for cleaning.

Implants and implant restorations also help you keep your natural face shape and smile. With dentures and bridges, you will continue to lose jawbone tissue over time. This will give your face and cheeks that withered, sunken look often associated with the aging face.

Unlike dentures and dental bridges, dental implants and implant restorations are built to last. When properly cared for, they can last many decades. Other options, including certain dental bridges and dentures, may need to be replaced or, in the case of dentures relined, as often as every 5 to 10 years. This requires a more significant investment of your time and money, not to mention the added inconvenience. When you add it all up, there is very little difference in cost between dentures and dental implants.

Implant restorations allow you to live your life with complete confidence. Your implants won't fall out, slip or make clicking sounds when you talk, eat, sneeze or laugh. You'll be able to speak naturally, unlike with dentures that typically require a few weeks of muscle adaptation to the large appliance in your mouth. With implant restorations, you’ll have much greater peace of mind knowing that you can eat what you love, speak the way you want to speak, continue all the activities you enjoy and, best of all: You can smile broadly without embarrassment.

Dental implants protect your facial bones, jaw and healthy teeth. Leaving empty spaces in your mouth can lead to jawbone deterioration. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that actually stimulates bone growth and prevents bone loss. By getting dental implants as soon as possible after losing teeth, you can actually prevent bone loss at the site of the missing tooth. With implant restorations, there’s no need to grind down adjacent teeth as dentists often do to anchor bridges or partial dentures.

To learn more about implant dentistry and dentures, please call 575.521.0127 for your free consultation. You can also use our Request an Appointment form to book your one-on-one time with one of our dental specialists. Our implant dentistry patients come to us from Mesilla, Doña Ana, Mesquite, Las Cruces, Vado and close-by communities.

University Family Dental

Meet Your Dental Team

Comfortable, relaxed and pampering dental care awaits you at University Family Dental. Since 2006, we have served the Las Cruces, NM area and its nearby communities. Our highly skilled and experienced dental professionals are known for their affable personality and great chairside manners. Look to them for a unique, personalized dental care that promises splendid results.


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