A dental implant is an artificial tooth root replacement and is used in prosthetic dentistry to support restorations that resemble a tooth or group of teeth. There are several types of dental implants; the most widely accepted and successful is the osseointegrated implant, based on the discovery by Swedish Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark that titanium can be successfully fused into bone when osteoblasts grow on and into the rough surface of the implanted titanium. This forms a structural and functional connection between the living bone and the implant. A variation on the implant procedure is the implant-supported bridge, or implant-supported denture.
A typical implant consists of a titanium screw (resembling a tooth root) with a roughened surface. This surface is treated either by plasma spraying, etching or sandblasting to increase the integration potential of the implant. An osteotomy or precision hole is carefully drilled into jawbone and the implant is installed in the osteotomy.
Implant surgery is typically performed as an outpatient under general anesthesia or with Local anesthesia by trained and certified clinicians including general dentists, oral surgeons, and periodontists. An increasing number of general or cosmetic dentists as well as prosthodontists are also placing implants in relatively simple cases. The most common treatment plan calls for several surgeries over a period of months, especially if bone augmentation (bone grafting) is needed to support implant placements. At the other end of the surgery scale, some patients can be implanted and restored in a single surgery, in a procedure labeled “immediate function” and “teeth in an hour.”
A single implant procedure that involves an incision and “use flapless” of the gum or gingiva (to expose the jawbone) takes about an hour, sometimes longer; multiple implants can be installed in a single surgical session lasting several hours. At the conclusion, the patient goes through a period of recovery, returns to consciousness and is sent home with a relative or friend.
Healing and integration of the implant(s) with jawbone occurs over several months in a process called osseointegration. At the appropriate time, the restorative or cosmetic dentist or prosthodontist uses the implant(s) to anchor crowns or a prosthetic restoration containing several “teeth”. Since the implants supporting the restoration are integrated, which means they are biomechanically stable and strong, the patient is immediately able to masticate (chew) normally.