A dental implant is a small metal post that is implanted into the gum and jawbone in place of the root of a tooth. Implants are put in place if a person loses a tooth, or teeth, due to an injury or decay. Once a dental implant is securely in place and the bone has started to grow around it, an upper portion is created to give the appearance of a permanent tooth. The crown of the tooth is usually made of porcelain, ceramic, or a hard resin. While the implant portion of the tooth is designed to be permanent, the upper crown portion may need to be replaced after a few years if wear and tear begin to affect the person's bite pattern.
Implants do more than just fill space and make the mouth look as if all of the teeth are present; by implanting the metal rod and adding the porcelain crown, the teeth on either side are firmly supported and held in place. When a tooth is lost due to decay or an injury, the empty space gives nearby teeth additional room to move or shift. Any such movement can cause a person's bite pattern to change. Not only can this damage the teeth, it can also cause pain in the joints as the teeth try to realign themselves. Implanting the rod acts as an abutment, holding the other teeth in place and preventing them from moving.
The majority of dental implants are designed to be permanent. When the metal rod is inserted into the jaw, the bone begins to grow around it, firmly securing it in place. Once the new bone growth is complete, it would be extremely difficult to extract the post from the bone. Manufactured crowns are put in place to fill in the area above the gum line. If for some reason the rest of the teeth are eventually pulled, new technology now allows for dentures to be made that snap onto the implanted posts. If all of the teeth are pulled, other posts can be added creating a firm foundation for the dentures that prevents slipping and shifting as a person eats or speaks.
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