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How To: Choose a dental implant specialist

November 13, 2009

Before development of dental implants, dentures were the only alternative to replacing a missing tooth or teeth. Dental implants are artificial tooth replacements used to counter tooth loss.

The procedure is categorized as a form of prosthetic (artificial replacement) dentistry, though it also falls into the category of cosmetic dentistry as well.

Although you have a number of restorative options for the treatment of missing teeth, none have proven to be as functionally effective and durable as implants. In many cases, dental implants may be the only logical choice for the restoration of all necessary functionality of the teeth and supporting structures. Implants are synthetic structures that are placed in the area of the tooth normally occupied by the root. Implants are anchored to the jawbone or metal framework on the bone and act as a foundation for an artificial tooth or permanent bridge. In some cases, implants can be used to attach dentures.

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Not everyone is a candidate for a dental implant, however. For a successful implant to take hold, a candidate must have proper bone density and have a strong immune system. In all cases, dental implants require strict oral hygiene.

Implants are so well designed that they mimic the look and feel of natural teeth.

Implants are usually made of a synthetic yet biocompatible material like metal or ceramic.

Surgery is necessary to prepare the area for an implant and place the implant in the mouth. Following the procedure, a period of time is required for the implant to take hold and for bone tissue to build up and anchor the device.

In some cases, metal posts are inserted into the implant during a follow-up procedure to connect the tooth. Because implants require surgery, patients are administered anesthesia and, if necessary, antibiotics to stave off infection following the procedure. Like any restoration, implants require diligent oral hygiene and proper care to ensure they last a long time.

Procedural advancements, including the development of narrower "mini" implants, mean that more people than ever before are finding themselves candidates for implantation. However, candidacy for implantation still varies, meaning that your dentist may determine that you should opt for an alternative restoration. Keep in mind, too, that dentists do not need a specific license by law in order to perform implant dentistry. A general or restorative dentist may perform the crown and bridge placement that is associated with implant restoration.

However, prosthodontists are the specialists who often complete this crucial procedure.

Periodontists and oral surgeons perform the implant surgical procedure itself.

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