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Some people feel uncomfortable smiling for the camera because of a missing front tooth or have trouble eating because of a lost back tooth. The most common treatment for these patients is a dental implant, as it can replace a person’s missing tooth—often for a lifetime.
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are similar in shape to screws. When dental implants are implanted into the jawbone, natural bone bonds to them and creates a base that supports artificial teeth, such as crowns, bridges, and dentures.
People have successful dental implants and tooth replacements every day. We saw one man who fell while on a vacation and lost a few of his front teeth. When he visited us for treatment, he appeared timid and afraid to smile. After he received dental implants and artificial teeth, however, he seemed like a completely different person—beaming with confidence and chatting with our team members. It seemed to give him a new lease on life.
LISTEN: Dr. Agarwal discusses dental implants in the Medical Intel podcast.
Who’s a Candidate for a Dental Implant?
People who want a single tooth replacement generally are the ones who most often receive dental implants. However, we’re starting to see more people who need all their teeth replaced with dentures or failing dentition, which is when patients have had a lot of work done to their teeth and their fillings or crowns are starting to fail. It can become so expensive to repair all of these issues that replacing the teeth is the better option. We work with all of our patients to help come up with the best solutions.
Additionally, we’ll see teenagers who naturally are missing a front tooth and elderly patients who had dentures for 15 years and say they want to smile or chew better.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
Dental implants are placed in four simple steps. A surgeon usually:
- Makes an incision in the gums to access the bone
- Creates space in the bone to anchor the screw that’s put in, using specialized equipment
- Closes the gums back up with dissolvable stitches
- After the implant heals, your dentist fabricates your replacement teeth
Most dental implants are done in as little as 30 minutes. During the first consultation, we gain an understanding of what patients’ expectations are. Some patients experience anxiety about the procedure. As a result, we offer patients anesthesia and medications to help alleviate their concerns. For all patients having dental implants, we coordinate and work closely with their dentist to make sure they have the best outcomes.
What Can I Expect During Recovery?
Dental implants usually have an easy recovery. Patients can expect to experience some pain for a few days, so we recommend they use over-the-counter pain medication. Furthermore, we ask patients to avoid consuming hard, crunchy foods and foods with extremely hot or cold temperatures for one day while their new tooth recovers.
Avoiding infection also is critical, so we’ll ask patients to continue brushing their teeth regularly and prescribe them antibiotics. Recovering from a dental implant generally takes only a few days, so many people have the procedure at the end of the week and return to work and their daily activities by Monday.
Experts in Care
Our program dedicates one and a half days a week to dental implants. One of the unique aspects of our program is that every patient gets both a surgical and prosthetic consultation. This means patients can discuss both the look of their new tooth as well as the operation itself with an expert.
Our program has opinion leaders in the field of dental implants who train and teach other doctors around the country about protocols developed at MedStar Washington Hospital Center. We’re on the cutting edge of digital technology, having virtual implant planning, in-house 3D printing that helps us know exactly where to place the dental implant, and implant navigation equipment. All of these technologies allow us to reduce treatment time, minimize errors, and provide new teeth on the same day as surgery. Even better, we provide this advanced care at a reduced cost when compared to many other medical providers.
Many tooth-replacement methods have existed over the years, but dental implants generally have the highest success rates. Why go through the stress of having trouble eating or feeling less confident when smiling?