If you have lost one or more teeth, our dentist may recommend replacing them with dental implants. Implants allow you to regain a completely functional smile, and they provide a long-term solution that works to promote your oral health, including strengthening your jawbone to keep your teeth stable in your mouth. We invite you to call us at 707-542-1532 to schedule a consultation with Dr. Darren Gonzalez and find out if you are a candidate for dental implants in Santa Rosa, California.
What is a Dental Implant?
A missing tooth is optimally replaced with a restoration that provides the look, feels, and function of a natural tooth. A dental implant can do just that! Each tooth consists of two parts: the visible portion called the crown and the lower portion that anchors the tooth into the jawbone called the root. A dental implant acts as a new root for your artificial tooth so that you can use it in the same way as a natural tooth!
Who is an ideal candidate to have a dental implant placed?
If you’re missing a tooth or a couple of teeth, there is no better replacement option than dental implants. They replace the individual tooth or teeth and look and function exactly as a natural tooth does. You’re also a good candidate if you have a tooth with severe decay or damage that likely needs extracting. It should be replaced with an implant.
To have implants placed, however, the patient must have adequate jawbone mass. If you’ve been missing a number of teeth in an area for some time you’ve probably lost bone mass in the area. There may not be sufficient bone mass to anchor the implant base without the risk of it failing. This doesn’t mean you cannot have an implant placed; it simply means Dr. Gonzalez will have to do some bone grafting first to build up the jawbone mass. This isn’t a difficult or painful procedure; it just adds some time to the process. In some cases, if you don’t have too much jawbone loss, Dr. Gonzalez can place the titanium implant base along with bone grafting material at the same time.
What are Dental Implants Made of?
A dental implant is a screw made of titanium that is surgically installed into your jawbone. The titanium material is very biocompatible, meaning it will react well with your body and fuse with the necessary strength into your jawbone. This will provide the needed stability for the remainder of the restoration. The fusion usually takes several months as your body and jawbone adjust to the implant and form a durable bond with it. We will not place a restoration on top of the post until it has completely fused with your jawbone.
Once the fusion is complete, we will then place the rest of the restoration on top of it. This may be a crown, bridge, or denture depending on what you and our team have decided is best for your smile. The restoration will be crafted just for your unique needs and specifications, meaning it will match the color and aesthetic of your smile. After placing the restoration, we will check the fit, appearance, and function and make any necessary adjustments so that you can use it normally. With good oral care and regular visits to our dentist, your dental implants can last many years or even a lifetime!
Is there anything I need to do to prepare for my dental implant procedure?
You don’t need to do anything before your appointment.
What is the process of getting a dental implant?
- Consultation: The implant process begins with a consultation with Dr. Gonzalez, who performs a full oral exam and takes x-rays and a CT scan to determine your jawbone mass.
- Placement: Next the titanium implant is placed into the hole formerly occupied by the tooth root. Dr. Gonzalez may have to drill a small hole into the jawbone to prepare it. The implant is shaped like a screw and is inserted in that fashion.
- Osseointegration: Now the patient simply waits three to six months as the jawbone naturally grows around and accepts the titanium implant.
- Abutment: When the jawbone has fully grown around the implant, a small metal post, called an abutment, is attached to the implant and the gum tissue is allowed to heal around the post for about six weeks.
- Placing the crown: The final step is to place a custom-made porcelain crown onto the abutment. The crown is made to match the color and shape of the surrounding teeth so, once placed, it fits in naturally.
How long does it take to have a dental implant placed?
As discussed in the process section of this page, placing a dental implant involves different stages. First, Dr. Gonzalez places the titanium implant into the hole formerly occupied by the natural tooth root. Then he closes the gum incision, and you wait for your jawbone to grow around the titanium implant, making it a part of the jaw. This takes from 3 to 6 months, depending on the rate of your bone growth. Next, the post is attached, and the gums need time to heal around it for another six weeks. Finally, the crown/artificial tooth is attached to the post to complete your dental implant.
Start to finish will take between four and seven months. From there your implant will likely last the remainder of your life, requiring nothing more than attentive home hygiene. They are well worth the wait.
The advantages of having a dental implants
- Dental implants behave exactly like natural teeth, so the patient can eat any foods and chew normally.
- Unlike bridges, where adjacent “abutment teeth” need to be crowned to anchor the bridge holding the false tooth or teeth, implants stand alone.
- Implants keep adjacent teeth from moving.
- Implants are load-bearing teeth, so you don’t have to avoid chewing or biting with them. Plus, they transfer energy down into the jawbone just as natural teeth do. This energy is critical to signal the jaw to continually build new bone cells.
- Implants have a 95% success rate and can last for the remainder of the patient’s life, giving the patient back his or her smile and the ability to eat any foods.
Does getting a dental implant to require anesthesia?
Patients are amazed at how little discomfort is involved with the placement of dental implants. Dr. Gonzalez uses local anesthetic when making the small initial incision in the gums to access the jawbone. Placing the titanium implant doesn’t require pain relief, as there aren’t any nerve endings in the jawbone. Another small injection of local anesthetic is used when Dr. Gonzalez opens the gums to place the abutment onto the implant base once it has integrated fully into the jawbone. The final step of placing the artificial porcelain tooth atop the abutment doesn’t require any anesthetic.
How do I care for my dental implant?
Dental implants don’t require any special care. The porcelain artificial tooth attached to the implant base cannot decay and is highly resistant to staining. Brushing twice daily for 2 minutes and flossing once are all you need to do. It is important to floss around the implant to keep plaque from accumulating there.
How long is the entire implant process? Is there recovery along the way?
The length of time required for the placement of your dental implant varies depending on the patient. Once Dr. Gonzalez places the titanium implant base by screwing it down into your jawbone, it takes time for your jawbone to grow around the implant and make it a part of your jaw. The bone growth rate can span from 3 months up to 6 months, depending on the patient. Over the process, Dr. Gonzalez will monitor your bone growth to see when he can add the post to the implant base. After he does that, there are another 4-6 weeks to allow your gum tissue to heal and grow around the implant post.
As for recovery, there is some recovery when you first get the implant base placed, as Dr. Gonzalez has to make a small incision in your gums to access the jawbone. You’ll eat a soft diet for 7 days or so to let the incision heal. There is also a short period when he places the post on the implant base.
Are there any foods I will have to avoid once I have an implant?
No. You can eat whatever you like. That’s one of the great things about implants. Because they are anchored into your jaw, just as a natural tooth is, you can eat anything. It is possible to potentially break your artificial tooth, but this is pretty rare.
How many dental implants can be done at once?
There isn’t a limit. The cost of replacing missing or badly damaged teeth with a series of dental implants can be quite expensive, but you can have a number of implants placed at the same time if you choose.
Do dental implants last forever?
Most dental implants will last the remainder of the patient’s life. The implant base will stay in your jawbone for the duration. You can possibly wear out or break the artificial tooth attached to the implant, but it can be easily replaced.
What are the risks of having a dental implant?
These are the most successful procedures in the dental world. Placing dental implants has a success rate of over 98 percent. The only real risk with dental implants is that the implant base will not successfully integrate into the jawbone and will loosen and fail. This is really only a possibility if the dentist has placed the implant in an area with insufficient bone mass. Because Dr. Gonzalez uses our i-Cat Scan dental imaging system to create 3D images of the patient’s jaw when mapping his sites to place implants, this is not a problem with his practice. These are incredibly low-risk, high reward procedures.
Are dental implants covered by insurance?
This varies widely based on your carrier. Up until just a few years ago, most insurance companies viewed implants as a cosmetic, elective procedure. But that has changed as more and more companies see the value and long-term benefits of using an implant to replace a missing tooth.
Still, because there is some variation in coverage it’s a good idea to check with your provider to learn their policy on covering dental implants.
At Dr. Gonzalez’s, we work with your insurance company to gain as much coverage as possible.
What can I expect during my consultation for a dental implant?
Dr. Gonzalez views every consultation as a complete give-and-take meeting between the two of you. He thinks a dental implant is far and away from the best choice for replacing a single tooth or even a couple of missing teeth. If you’re missing a series of teeth, he’s an advocate of using dental implants to anchor bridges or even a full-arch denture.
During your consultation, he’ll examine your mouth and teeth. He may recommend i-Cat 3D imaging to see if you have the adequate bone mass to anchor your implant. This can be a question if you’ve been missing a tooth or a series of teeth for a period of time.
He’ll explain the dental implant process. You may be a good candidate for mini implants, or traditional implants could be a better solution. He’ll explain all the steps involved, as implants are not an immediate treatment, but involve a process of different steps over weeks and months.
Throughout your consultation, you’re encouraged to ask any and all questions you may have.
Schedule Your Consultation Today
If you would like to learn more about implant dentistry in Santa Rosa, California, please give us a call! We are ready to help complete your smile.