Dental implants can be a great option for people who want to replace one or more missing teeth. A dental implant functions just like a tooth’s root. The bone surrounding the implant fuses to the implant, creating the most secure platform possible for an artificial tooth. Because the implant needs to heal into the jaw and is under the gumline, a dental abutment is used to connect the prosthesis to the implant. There are a couple of different types of abutments, each of which serves a different need.
Dental implant abutments are usually made of a metal material like titanium or gold. Abutments connect implants to prosthetic teeth, but they also help the gums achieve the proper shape around the restoration. Healing abutments, which may also be referred to as healing caps or healing cuffs, are used while the gum tissue is healing after a dental implant is placed. These tend to be slightly larger in diameter than permanent abutments, as they serve as spacers for the gum tissue as it heals. Once the gum tissue has healed around the healing abutment, this abutment is removed and a final abutment is placed. This is the abutment that will be used to affix the prosthesis to the implant. Sometimes, the abutment is placed in the same surgical procedure as the implant, and in other cases, the abutment is placed in a second surgical procedure. Dental abutments can also be made of materials that are specifically designed to match the rest of the teeth, like zirconia, which is helpful when the prosthetic tooth will be in a very visible part of the mouth, as it enhances the natural, seamless appearance of the tooth and the gums.
In order to place an abutment during a second surgery, the surgeon must first make a small incision in the gum tissue just above the surgical site. It takes about 4 to 6 weeks, in most cases, for the gum tissue to heal around an abutment. You may receive special dietary guidelines during the healing process, and you will also receive direction on how to gently yet effectively clean the area around the abutments. This is very important, as it can help promote healing and prevent infection. If the surgical sites bleed, or if you have a fever or pain in the jaws or mouth after abutments are placed, contact your dentist.
As the gum tissue heals, a dental lab technician will work on making your dental prosthesis, based on impressions taken of your teeth by your dentist. This may require multiple office visits and may take a few months, which gives the gum tissue plenty of time to heal and also gives the dental technician time to craft a perfect replacement tooth. Once the prosthesis is made, it will be fitted into the mouth, again over the course of a few dental office visits. After the prosthesis is adjusted as needed, it will be attached to the abutment. It may take a few weeks for you to adjust to your new dental prosthesis, but after this adjustment period, you can expect your dental prosthesis to look and act just like a healthy, natural tooth.
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