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It’s no wonder the American Dental Association has called dental implants “one of the biggest advancements in dentistry in the past 40 years”: Dental implants can improve a person’s appearance, speech, comfort, ability to eat, self-esteem and overall oral health.

Perhaps you’ve been wondering if dental implants would be a good solution for you. Below we provide you with answers to three of the most frequently asked questions about dental implants.

1. What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a cylindrical or tapered screw-like post, generally made of titanium, that’s surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw bone to permanently substitute as the tooth root. A connector piece called an abutment is built into — or placed on top of — the dental implant, connecting it to the replacement tooth. A crown is custom-made for the replacement tooth, and it matches the appearance of the rest of your natural teeth.

These materials are “biocompatible,” which basically means they’re compatible with the human body. They serve as sturdy anchors for replacement teeth, fusing to the sturdiness of your natural bone through a process called “osseointegration,” in which the bone actually grows around the post, permanently holding it in place.

Dental implants enable the replacement of an individual tooth, an implant-supported bridge or a denture containing several teeth. Without question, a dental implant is the treatment that comes closest to imitating the function and stability of natural teeth.

Implants are a great alternative to dentures or bridgework that doesn’t fit well. In fact, Dr. Nicholas says that dental implants are preferable to bridges because bridges turn a one-tooth problem into a three-teeth problem; whereas, a dental implant replaces only the tooth that has the problem. Dental implants look like natural teeth, and they function like natural teeth, giving you a long-term solution for restoring your smile.

2. Will it be painful to get dental implant surgery?
Most patients say there is very little discomfort involved with a dental implant procedure. In fact, many patients have happily reported that implants are less painful than getting a tooth extracted! In truth, any dental surgery is accompanied by some degree of discomfort, but dental implant surgery is performed with anesthesia, so the actual procedure itself isn’t painful. After your dental implant surgery, Dr. Nicholas may prescribe a pain reliever to help with any discomfort during your recovery process. A little soreness can be expected in the area where the implant is placed. Otherwise, we think you will be pleasantly surprised by the minimal discomfort associated with implant surgery.

3. What is the process for getting dental implants?
First, you will consult with Dr. Nicholas to help determine whether you’re a candidate for implant surgery. If so, the doctor and her team will write an individualized treatment plan that’s designed to address your specific needs.

The implant post is surgically inserted into the jaw bone. After a period of healing (usually between six to 12 weeks), the bone and the implant post bond together and form a strong foundation. During this healing process, you will wear a temporary restoration.

In the next phase of the surgery, the dental implant is uncovered and your doctor will attach a small connector called an abutment that will serve as an anchor for the artificial treatment. (There are scenarios where this particular phase is unnecessary.)

Then the custom-designed artificial tooth (or crown) is attached to your implant, and your smile can shine once again! Since the dental implant is secured within the jaw bone, your new replacement teeth will look, feel and function just as your natural tooth once did.

In most cases, anyone who’s healthy enough to undergo oral surgery or get a tooth extracted can be a candidate for dental implants. Success rates vary, depending on where in the jaw bone the implant is placed, but generally speaking, dental implants have a success rate of up to 97 percent, according to Cleveland Clinic.org. Dental implants are durable, convenient, and if cared for properly, they can last a lifetime.

If you’ve been curious about implant surgery and whether it’s a good solution for you, you’ve come to the right place. Our very own Dr. Nicholas is a specialist and a well-known expert in the field of dental implants.

For more information about dental implants, contact Dr. Anne Nicholas at the Palm Desert Center for Advanced Periodontics, Cosmetic, Sedation and Implant Dentistry. She can be reached by phone at 760-851-0314 or at her office in Palm Desert, California.