Are Dental Implants Right for You?

By MaryAnn DePietro, CRT. Medically reviewed by Tom Iarocci, MD. May 7th 2016

Dental implant surgery is often the best choice to replace missing teeth. Not only does it restore the function of your tooth, but it helps decrease bone deterioration.

Getting dental implants involves surgically placing the implant into the jawbone. The implant serves as a sturdy foundation for a replacement tooth, which is usually a crown. Although there are benefits of dental implants, how do you know if you the procedure is right for you?

Dental Implant Interference

Certain chronic medical or dental conditions may make dental implant surgery a little riskier, but it may still be possible. A few important factors a dentist considers before implant surgery is the condition of the patient’s gums and bone level.

“Healthy gum tissues are necessary for the successful placement of dental implants. A patient must also have sufficient bone to support the implant, and if he or she does not, there are often a number of ways to correct bone deficiency,” says Dr. Stuart Froum, president of the American Academy of Periodontology and clinical professor and director of clinical research at the Department of Periodontics and Implant Dentistry at New York Dental University Dental Center.

In some instances, if a patient does not have enough bone to work with, certain procedures can be performed, such as a bone graft, ridge expansion or sinus lift. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, all three procedures are done in order to increase bone volume, which allows dental implant surgery to be performed.

Poor bone density levels may also be a factor. Patients who have poorly controlled diabetes, and those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy need to be evaluated by their doctor and periodontists on an individual basis.

“Heavy smokers and those taking immunosuppressive drugs for severe rheumatoid arthritis or other conditions may also be poor candidates for implants and should check with their physicians,” said Froum.

Preventing an Implant From Failing

According to the American Academy of Osseointegration, dental implants have a 90 percent success rate. Although implants have a high success rate, they still will occasionally fail, which is something to keep in mind when considering dental implant surgery.

Normally, when the implant is surgical placed into the jawbone, it integrates into the bone, which means the implant attaches to the bone. Although most of the time, this attachment occurs without issue, an implant can be unsuccessful if it does not join properly with the bone. The implant may fail to join due to infection, poor placement or underlying health conditions. 

Patients may not always be able to prevent the implant from failing, but there are a few things they can do to increase their chances of a successful outcome. First and foremost, implants need to be cared for during the recovery process and after the crown has been placed.

“Maintaining a healthy hygiene level, which includes regular continuing care visits with your dentist, is important for the success of an implant,” confirms Dr. Oliver Wong, DDS, owner of Johnson Ranch Dental in Roseville, Calif.

Recovery From Dental Implant Surgery

Although it varies, it often takes about two to four months for the bone to heal after surgery, according to the American Academy of Osseointegration. In most cases, patients resume normal activities in a day or two after the initial surgery and during the bone-healing process.

After the implant has fused with the bone, the next step involves placing a post called an abutment into the gum, which then attaches to the implant. The gum is also given time to heal before the final stage of the dental implant process occurs, which is attaching the crown.

“In a large number of cases, recovery is usually very easy,” says Wong. “With good oral hygiene, most patients heal fully in four to six months.”

Next Steps

  • Become educated on the process. Dental implants are different from other types of tooth replacement. Understanding the process can help you determine if it is your best option.
  • Quit smoking, as it can affect success of an implant.
  • Follow post-op instructions, such as applying ice and taking antibiotics if advised.
  • Maintain good oral hygiene. Dental implants will not develop cavities, but gum disease can still occur and affect the implant. 

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