Dental Implants, San Diego
Is it an option for me?
Dental implants are an excellent option for replacing missing or non-restorable teeth. Dental implants have been used for over 30 years and are very safe, reliable and, most importantly, functional and esthetic. The dental implant is essentially a titanium root which is topped with a crown that looks and functions like a natural tooth. It can enhance your bite, function and esthetics.
Why should I replace my missing tooth?
When you lose a tooth, the natural tendency is to want to replace it, especially if it is a front tooth that you cannot esthetically live without or a molar that functions as your primary chewing surface. Missing teeth can affect your bite, remaining teeth can shift and bone in your jaw will slowly resorb (disappear) without constant stimulation from chewing. This could lead to an altered appearance of your face.
What are my tooth replacement options?
Fortunately, replacing a missing tooth is not a dental emergency. You have time to consider what replacement option is the best for you and to make an informed decision. There are several traditional treatment options available for the replacement of missing teeth. After many years of research and clinical trials, we can now offer you dental implants as another option.
- A treatment partial/stay plate is a temporary way of replacing teeth. It is similar to a retainer and has a tooth attached to it. The entire appliance is removable.
- A fixed bridge is cemented into place using crowns on the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth for support. The unfortunate consequence of this appliance is that the two adjacent teeth need to be filed down for the crowns to fit properly. A Maryland bridge does not need crowns and is glued onto the back of the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth.
- Complete dentures are the traditional solution for patients who have lost all of their teeth either in their upper or their lower jaw.
- Do not replace it at all. In areas that are not critical for esthetics or chewing, one option is to not replace the tooth. You will be without a tooth replacement for several months after your extraction. This will give you time to truly assess if the missing tooth is impacting your function or self esteem, if your teeth are shifting, or you decide that you can actually live without it.
What is a dental implant?
The best way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a natural tooth. A tooth has a root and a crown. The part of the tooth that you see and eat with is called the crown. Beneath the crown is a root, which anchors the tooth through the gum tissue to the jawbone. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace a tooth, we first have to replace the root. A dental implant is essentially the new root. This titanium root is fitted into a socket that we create in your jawbone, replacing the lost root of your natural tooth. Once the area is healed and the implant is stable enough to take the pressure of chewing, a crown can be attached to the implant by an abutment. An abutment is the bridging component between the implant that is below the gum line and the crown that is above the gum line. There are several advantages to restoring your lost tooth with an implant. In addition to functioning and looking like a natural tooth, a dental implant replaces a single tooth without sacrificing the health of adjacent teeth. Implants integrate with the jaw bone helping to keep the bone healthy and intact. Implants are also easier to keep clean than a bridge, reducing the incidence of gum recession around the bridge as well as decay around the adjacent teeth.
Is a dental implant an option for me?
Before placing an implant, Dr Hunt does a thorough evaluation to assess if an implant is the best option for your individual case. He takes a panoramic x-ray to see where nerves and the sinus cavity are and how much bone separates those structures from the eventual implant. He takes an impression of your mouth to get a three dimensional view of the underlying bone as well as your overall bite and alignment. He takes into consideration the area of the lost tooth and if the blood supply in that area is favorable for integration of the implant. He takes a health history and does a physical exam of your mouth to assess the health of your gum tissue and bone as those are factors influencing successful implant integration. In some cases, a CAT scan of the jaw can be taken and the results can be used in conjunction with specialized software that we have. And most importantly, Dr Hunt spends time educating you and listening to you to collaboratively decide if an implant would work for you.
Who places dental implants?
Periodontists specialize in gums and the structures below the gum line. They are especially concerned with how these underlying structures function and heal. Implants are placed in those structures. That makes Periodontists the preeminent dental specialist to place dental implants.
Dr Hunt has been successfully placing implants since 1990. His published research project from his Periodontics Residency was on implants. Since then, Dr Hunt has kept abreast on the most current information and techniques regarding implants through numerous continuing education courses, participation in implant related organizations, and lecturing on implant dentistry.
How and when are dental implants placed?
On occasion, dental implants can be placed at the time of extraction, if everything is favorable for successful integration. If your tooth was extracted more than 1 year ago, there will likely be only a limited amount of jaw bone in that area. If there is insufficient bone to support an implant, a bone graft can be done at the time of extraction, or after, to stimulate bone regeneration to fill in the socket for implant placement four to six months later. Also, if there is underlying infection in the area, it is the most prudent to allow the area to heal prior to implant placement.
The office procedure to place a dental implant takes about 1 to 1 1/2 hours and is actually less invasive than an extraction. Dr Hunt uses a long-acting local anesthetic to numb the area where the implant will be placed. He feels strongly about numbing the area completely so that the patient is comfortable. If there is a need for sedation, we can pre-arrange offering you nitrous oxide (laughing gas) or sleep dentistry in addition to anesthesia.
The procedure to place dental implants has gotten more refined through the years and is now extremely predictable and minimally invasive. A small incision is made into the gum tissue revealing the bone into which the implant will be placed. A socket will be created in the underlying bone. This will be done slowly and incrementally so as not to overheat the bone. The titanium implant will then be placed into the socket created. Implants in the front will have gum tissue sutured around it, essentially burying the implant under the gums. Implants, other than in the front of the mouth, will have a lid called a healing cap covering it and will be flush with the level of the bone. A small suture may be used, if necessary. We will monitor the entire process by taking several x-rays during and after the procedure. After 4-6 months of healing, in which time the bone is growing around the implant and incorporating it into the jaw, you will be ready for the second stage of implant placement. You will return to our office to have the abutment tightened on. We will also help you pre-arrange an appointment, immediately following ours, at your restorative dentists office to have impressions taken to fabricate your permanent crown. They will make you a temporary crown at that time to use for two to three weeks while awaiting the delivery of your permanent crown from the lab.
How long will this entire process take?
This will be determined on a case by case basis taking into consideration when the tooth was extracted, if there was a bone graft placed at the time of extraction, if there currently is enough bone to place the implant successfully, if it is an upper or lower implant and if it is a front or back tooth. Your individual healing also plays an important role in the overall process.
In general, an implant can be placed between 2 to 6 months after the extraction and bone graft. The final abutment and crown can be placed anywhere from 2 to 6 months after the implant.
What if I am missing all of my lower or upper teeth?
If you are missing all the teeth in your lower jaw, you may consider a number of options. The first option is placing two implants in your lower jaw and making a denture that snaps onto those implants and is removable. This ensures that your dentures are more stable while chewing. As with other dentures, you will still need to have periodic denture adjustments. A second option is placing four to six implants that are connected with a custom-support bar. Your denture will be made with special retention clips inside that attach onto the support bar, allowing the denture to snap firmly into place. This is called an overdenture. The advantage of this option is that it is much more stable than the first option. Your denture is still removable for easy cleaning and maintenance. The third option involves placing five or more implants and attaching a permanent denture. Your denture is held in place by screws or clasps that secure it to the support posts or bar and will only be removed at maintenance visits. The final option is to have all your teeth individually replaced so that they will appear to be growing out of your gum tissue and will most closely resemble the appearance of your natural teeth. This option usually requires eight or more implants plus separate abutments and crowns for each. The teeth are frequently joined together for strength and support. Overall, this is the most costly option, because it requires the most implants. This option may be limited by the size of your jawbone.
If you are missing all the teeth in your upper jaw, you will need more implants to support replacement teeth because the bone in the upper jaw is not as dense. This option will eliminate the need to make a denture that covers the roof of your mouth. You will be able to better taste food and to sense food temperature. It will still be removable yet feel a little more natural.
What can I use for teeth while the implants are healing?
There are many options for temporarily replacing teeth while the bone graft is filling in or while you are between the two stages of implant placement. The most common replacement for single teeth towards the front of the mouth is a transitional partial. It can be easily removed and cleaned and esthetically fills the gap of your missing teeth.
How do I clean my implants?
As with natural teeth, it is important to clean implant supported restorations regularly with tooth brushing, flossing, and any other oral hygiene techniques and aids. You should also visit your dentist quarterly to have professional cleanings and to monitor your implant. As with regular dentures and other tooth replacements, your implants and their associated components are subject to wear and tear and eventually will need maintenance and other adjustments.
How long will the implant last?
Implants last a long time. Long-term studies (more than 30 years) of people missing all their teeth have shown an 80-90% success rate. Six-year studies of single tooth implants have shown a success rate of over 90%. There is always a slight possibility that the implant doesn’t heal well or loosens after a period of time and may need to be removed and/or replaced.
What do these services cost?
Our professional staff will discuss with you any fees associated with implants as well as assist you with insurance submissions. There are many types of insurances and the coverage for implants also varies widely. When comparing the cost of a single tooth implant to a 3-unit bridge, the implant and the crown it supports is oftentimes more cost effective than the bridge. This is especially true when you take into account the long lifespan and better fit of an implant crown versus the much shorter lifespan and poorer fit of a bridge.
Implant – Anterior