1. Good medical health
If you’re thinking about getting a dental implant, you need to make sure you’re healthy. Be sure to inform your dentist about your medical history and any medications you are taking.
“[Dental] implants work best when a patient is in good health, or if they do suffer from any mild diseases, that they are under control, such as diabetes,” said Dr. Frank Caputo of Cudahy, Wisconsin. He added that certain conditions, like uncontrolled diabetes, could keep a patient from healing properly, while others, such as a recent cardiac event (i.e. heart attack, stroke), will postpone surgery till a later date.
According to Dr. Ira Goldberg of Succasunna, New Jersey, you also need enough bone to support the implant. In that case, your dentist may be able to grow bone where it’s needed using a process called “grafting.” “We add (artificial bone) into the deficient areas,” Goldberg said. “Sometimes we’ll use something called a membrane … to help hold the graft in place, and the body will turn (the graft) over and grow it into its own bone.”
2. Good oral health
Before you get a dental implant, you should take good care of your teeth. Since dental implants involve surgery, infections or gum disease could reduce the chances your implant can successfully be placed in your mouth.
“With dental implants, we have to make sure the rest of the mouth is in good health,” Caputo said. Your dentist may also suggest treatment to optimize your oral health before they give your implants the go-ahead. “We always have to address any immediate concerns to get the patient to optimal health of the mouth prior to moving forward with the implant. This may include a routine cleaning, or clearing up any active infections” Caputo added.
3. An understanding mindset
Even before you’ve decided to get an implant, you need to have the mindset that there are risks and complications.
“I want my patient to have a truly good understanding of what’s going on, what are the alternatives, what are the risks, the benefits,” Caputo said. For example, Caputo said, the crown of a dental implant – which is the part of the implant that looks like a tooth – can wear and tear just like a regular crown or cap. Implants may also be subject to periodontal disease, called peri-implant disease, which inflames the gums and if not addressed, can affect the underlying bone, Caputo said.
And even if you’ve read up on dental implants, you should always consult with your AAID-credentialed dentist about your specific situation.
“We have a saying that you always start with the end (goal) in mind,” Goldberg said. “Just like when you’re building a house, the builder’s going to listen to what the customer’s desires are. From there, they can plan backwards and figure out the important details, such as what kind of foundation they’re going to have to build, or the size of the lumber to support the desired house.”
4. A commitment to oral hygiene
After your implant is in place, you should regularly brush and floss your teeth, and go to your dentist for scheduled check-ups, cleaning, and X-rays.
“A commitment to sound home care and routine dental cleanings is paramount” to a successful dental implant, Caputo said. You may have to go to the dentist more often than usual depending on the procedure you received.
“A person with healthy dental implants … (should) come to the dentist every 6 months,” Goldberg said, adding that someone who has undergone a major reconstruction may be asked to return every 3 to 4 months.
Dentists consulted for this article include Frank A. Caputo DDS, AFAAID of Cudahy Dental Associates in Cudahy, Wisconsin and Ira Goldberg, DDS, FAAID, DABOI/ID, DICOI of Morris Dental Associates in Succasunna, New Jersey.
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