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Dental Implants Dentistry in Tarzana, CA

What are dental implants?

Although nothing is as good as your own natural teeth, when you have lost teeth due to injury, decay or gum disease, dental implants are the best way to replace them. A dental implant is a metal anchor (surgical titanium) which is placed into the jaw bone, where the teeth are missing.

After a healing period, replacement teeth are connected to these anchors. The implants heal in the bone by a process called "osteoinegration", which means that the bone actually attaches itself to the implant.

Dental Implant Presentation

To provide you with a better understanding of dental implants, we have provided the following multimedia presentation. Many common questions pertaining to dental implants are discussed.

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Why are implants better than other types of tooth replacement?

When teeth are present, the bone which supports the teeth, called alveolar bone, is subject to normal functional stresses. This function serves to strengthen the bone, just as exercise strengthens the muscles and bone of the body. The purpose of theresorb alveolar bone is to support teeth. When teeth are lost, the functional stresses on the alveolar bone are also lost. This bone then has no "reason for being", and so it will tend to shrink away (a process called resorbtion). This is just like "disuse atrophy" of other muscles and bones.

That is why people who have been without teeth for a long period will have very thin jaw bones and difficulty using dentures. Even if only one tooth is lost, resorbtion will occur.

When a missing tooth (or teeth) is replaced by a bridge, the bone will resorb underneath so that the gums appear to have receded from under the replacement teeth. This can be esthetically unfavorable. Also, if only a single tooth is lost, and the teeth on either side are without fillings or other restorations ("virgin teeth"), then preparation of a bridge requires that tooth structure be removed from these adjacent teeth and a crown (cap) be placed on each.

When teeth are replaced with dental implants, this functional stress is returned to the bone, so resorbtion of the bone is significantly decreased. Also, the adjacent teeth do not need to be prepared as part of the process. So, if only one tooth is missing, only one tooth is replaced. This gives a much more natural appearance, and is as close as you can come to the original equipment as far as function and bone health.

What is involved in treatment with dental implants?

Treatment with dental implants usually involves a number of steps. First, the implants are placed in bone, under the gums. This is usually done in the office under a mild sedation or general anesthesia. There is usually only minor discomfort after implant surgery. Most patients say that it is similar to a tooth extraction.

After allowing the implants to osteointegrate (about 4 - 6 months), they are uncovered by a small incision in the gums, and abutments are placed on the implants. These are the element which connect the implants to the artificial teeth. After a short healing period (2 - 4 weeks), preparation of the final prosthesis begins.

Depending on your situation, only one, a few, or many implants will need to be placed to give the best overall result. Treatment planning for dental implants is a team effort, involving a surgeon, your general dentist, possibly a prosthodontist (restorative specialist) and a periodontist (gum specialist), and of course, you. Occasionally, a CAT scan will be required to evaluate the exact dimensions, shape, and quality of your bone.

After all the required information is gathered, treatment plan options will be presented to you. Some patients will require bone grafting or other additional procedures to improve the chances of success. This will all be discussed with you when you are seen for consultation.