Placement of implants has been one of the most exciting and beneficial procedures that my office offers. Dental implants can last you the rest of your life, but like other surgical procedures, they come with no lifetime guarantee. That said, the success rate is well over 90% for most people.
A dental implant (made by many different companies) is usually made of surgically pure titanium, which is very compatible to our bones and soft tissues. I have used implants from Straumann exclusively since the early 1990s because of their success. It is very rare to have problems with a reaction to titanium. When an implant is placed three or more months after the healing of an extracted tooth, it will become the new root, which—once fused to the bone—will provide a very solid foundation for a crown (the visible, chewing part). Implants can be much stronger than the tooth or teeth that they replace.
I usually wait two months after extraction of a tooth to reevaluate the patient for possible implant placement. Most other surgeons place a "bone" graft in the socket at the time of extraction; although this is sometimes a great idea, it significantly increases the cost of the extraction. There is also a chance this graft material will be lost from the socket in the first few weeks of healing, yielding no benefit for your expense. Further, there can be reactions to the graft material, causing prolonged discomfort and possible infection. There are synthetic (man-made) grafts, and freeze-dried bone from humans (cadavers) and animals. If you will be receiving a graft from your surgeon, it will be one of these types. I do not routinely place grafts.
If a patient appears as a good candidate for an implant two months after extraction, we start gaining other needed "measures." A calibrated digital x-ray is taken to know the safe length of implant to be used. The visual exam and an impression of the implant area provide other measures, and allow fabrication of a custom-made drill guide for your surgery. A practice surgery is actually accomplished in the lab, viewing correct angle and position for an optimal new tooth. The custom guide allows precise placement of your new implant.
Implant surgery can be done under local anesthesia or a light IV sedation. There is minimal post-op pain (usually less than the extraction), and the patient is instructed to not chew over the healing implant for 12 weeks. This allows the fusion of bone to the implant, which will make it very solid! You will go back to your regular dentist after 12 weeks for placement of the single or multiple crowns. After this, you will be able to chew normally again!
Your natural teeth are your best option to hold on to. But after you have done other things to prevent loss of the natural tooth, dental implants are a great thing to consider to get your tooth or teeth back. It is the closest option you can have to regain what you have lost!