dental implants by doctor Kim

Dental Implants: For Tooth Replacement

In the United States, edentulism- or missing teeth- is a common problem. For patients who are suffering from edentulism in or near Olive way, Seattle can schedule an appointment at 5thandolivedental for the best solution.

What Causes Missing Teeth?

At 5thandolive dental, we offer an array of dental services to keep your teeth in good shape. Typically, children lose their baby teeth by the age of 12. However, the secondary teeth that replace those are permanent. Unfortunately, there are several factors that can cause tooth loss or increase your risk.


In some cases, genetics play a role in missing teeth. In some patients, the secondary teeth are missing due to malformation of the jawbone. This is known as tooth agenesis and is common with certain congenital conditions such as Down syndrome and cleft palate/lip.

There are three kinds of congenitally missing teeth:

  • Hypodontia: when 1 to 5 secondary teeth do not form after the primary teeth come out
  • Oligodontia: when 6+ secondary teeth do not form after the primary teeth come out
  • Anodontia: none of the secondary teeth never develop after primary teeth come out

missing teeth

Gum Disease

Gum disease causes spaces, or pockets, between gums and teeth. Eventually, this causes the gum tissue to recede and teeth and bones to decay. The first sign of gum disease is gingivitis, which causes inflammation, redness, and bleeding. You can reverse gingivitis by practicing good oral hygiene habits. However, if not addressed, it can advance to periodontitis, which requires professional treatment.


Traffic accidents, falls, sports injuries, and other trauma can cause teeth to be knocked out. If you lose a tooth due to an injury or trauma, it’s important to get in to see the dentist within 30 minutes.

If possible, place the tooth back into the socket. If not, place it in a glass of milk or hold it in your mouth next to your cheek. Do not wrap it in a paper towel, clean it, or touch the root.

Additional Factors

There are several other conditions and behaviors that increase the risk of missing teeth, including:

  • Cavities or decay
  • Smoking
  • Poor nutrition
  • Little to no access to dental care
  • Poor dental hygiene habits

Severe tooth loss is substantially higher in patients with the following health conditions:

  • Diabetes
  • Asthma
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Heart disease
  • Emphysema
  • Stroke

What Problems are Caused by Missing Teeth?

Many patients question whether a single tooth can cause significant problems- especially if it’s a molar that no one can see. Many simply ignore the problem and adjust to the loss by chewing on the other side of the mouth. However, the truth is, missing teeth have a serious impact on a lot of areas:


In some cases, when a tooth is lost, the patient may begin to slur their words or develop a lisp, depending on the location of the tooth. Some patients have difficulty eating and chewing. For example, if you’re missing a front tooth, it can be hard to bite into things such as corn-on-the-cob or fruit. Missing molars can make it hard to chew on heavy foods such as meats. Patients who are missing several teeth may even experience weight loss and ultimately malnutrition because they are not able to get the nutrients they need.


Your teeth are not fixed in place- they can be moved. If they couldn’t orthodontic treatments such as braces wouldn’t be effective. If there is an empty space, your remaining teeth will naturally shift into that space. Over time, a once straight smile will become crooked. Oral health is also impacted by shifting. In some cases, teeth shift into a position where it becomes difficult to clean around them. This encourages bacteria to settle and grow, causing cavities and tooth decay to develop.

Irregular bite

In addition to making your smile crooked and potentially causing cavities and decay, it can eventually lead to malocclusions, also known as irregular bite. When you are missing one or more teeth, it causes instability and asymmetry, which can cause pain, such as TMJ or headaches. It also increases the risk of bruxism.

Bone loss

Just like your muscles need to be used to remain healthy, your bone weakens if not stimulated. When you are missing one or more teeth, the jawbone in that space isn’t getting stimulated, so it will eventually deteriorate and resorb.

Additional tooth loss

When you begin to lose bone density, you are also at an increased risk of additional tooth loss. The teeth closest to the space are affected first, becoming loose, cracking, or falling out completely.

Gum disease

When a tooth comes out, it leaves an open pocket in the gum where bacteria can settle, resulting in gum disease. This is the primary way diseases are brought to other areas of the body. Once gum disease advances to periodontitis, it can cause additional serious and potentially deadly medical conditions.

The worst part is, once you are missing one tooth, these issues occur quickly, which is why it is so important to have a missing tooth replaced as soon as possible. Dental implants are the best way to address missing teeth.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are a titanium screw-like post that is inserted into the jawbone and acts as an artificial tooth root. This post serves as a base for a single prosthetic tooth, bridge, or denture plate. The way the surgery is performed depends on the type of implant used and the condition of the jawbone.

The way the surgery is performed depends on the type of implant used and the condition of the jawbone. For many patients, implant surgery requires several procedures. The primary benefit of implants is osseointegration, which is the process by which the bone fuses with the implant, providing a solid base for your replacement tooth or teeth. The process can take several months to more than a year.

The replacement tooth/teeth will be matched to your natural teeth, so they will look, feel, and function like your natural teeth. As a general rule, implants are ideal for patients who:

  • Are missing 1 or more teeth
  • Are adults
  • Have adequate bone density or can undergo bone graft surgery to secure the implant
  • Have healthy oral tissues
  • Don’t have health issues that impact bone healing
  • Are unable/unwilling to wear traditional dentures
  • Don’t smoke or willing to quit smoking tobacco
  • Are willing to commit at least several months to more than a year to the process
  • Are interested in improving speech and ability to chew

What to Expect Before, During, and After the Dental Implant Surgery

Dental implant surgery can be a complex process. Therefore, a variety of specialists may be involved:

  • Oral surgeon
  • Periodontist
  • Prosthodontist
  • ENT specialist

Before the Implant surgery

Since there are typically several surgical procedures involved, you must start with a thorough evaluation to prepare for it. This will include:

  • Comprehensive dental exam, including x-rays and models made of teeth/jaw
  • Review of medical history
  • Treatment plan, customized to your specific situation

During the consultation evaluation, we will also discuss anesthesia options: local, general, or sedation. We will consider your condition and your preferences when determining which is best. Depending on the anesthesia you will be given, we will give you specific instructions on eating/drinking before surgery. Patients who are getting general anesthesia or sedation should plan to bring someone with them to the surgery that can drive them home. Also, don’t plan on doing anything for the rest of the day

During the Implant surgery

Dental implant surgery is typically outpatient and is done in stages, allowing time to heal between procedures. Depending on your situation, there are several steps involved in the process:

  • Removal of damaged tooth/teeth
  • Bone grafting, if necessary
  • Placement of dental implant
  • Healing/bone growth
  • Placement of abutment
  • Placement of artificial tooth

The process takes a minimum of several months and for some patients, may take a year or more. Most of this is healing and waiting for new bone growth. Depending on your condition, the procedures done, or materials used, certain steps may be combined.

If your jawbone doesn’t have enough density, you may require bone grafting before an implant can be placed. This is because chewing puts a lot of pressure on the jawbone and if it’s not strong enough support the implant, it could fail. Bone grafts create a stable base for an implant.

There are several options: bone from another area of your body, animal bone, or synthetic bone material. We will discuss these options and determine which one is best for you during your consultation appointment.

The initial condition of your jawbone determines how this surgery is done. If you require extensive bone grafting, it may take several months for the graft to heal. On the other hand, if you only need minor grafting, this can be done at the same time the implant is placed.

Placing the implant

A cut will be made in the gum to expose the bone. Then, a hole will be drilled where the implant will be placed. Since the implant is replacing the missing tooth root, it will be placed deep into the bone. There will be a gap where the tooth was, but a temporary replacement can be placed if needed for aesthetic purposes. You will be able to remove it for cleaning and while you sleep.

Once the implant is placed, the process of osseointegration begins. During this process, the jawbone will fuse around the implant, securing it in place. Typically, this takes several months.

Placing the abutment

Once the bone has fused around the implant, the abutment will need to be placed. This is the post that connects the implant to the artificial tooth. For this process, the gum will be re-opened to expose the implant. The abutment will be attached to the implant and the gum closed around, not over, the abutment.

If you have mini dental implants, the abutment will already be attached to the implant, so this step will be skipped. The problem many patients have with this is that the abutment will be visible until the prosthesis is placed- which many patients do not like. Once the abutment is placed, you’ll need to heal for about 2 weeks before the prosthesis can be attached.

Choosing your teeth

Once the gums have healed around the abutment, new impressions will be made of your mouth. This will allow the lab to fabricate your crown to match the rest of your teeth. You have two options:

  • Removable: will need to be taken out and cleaned at night
  • Fixed: treated like natural teeth, can only be removed by a dental professional

After the implant Surgery

Regardless of whether your implant surgery is done all at once or in several steps, you may have some discomfort, including:

  • Swelling and/or bruising of gums/face
  • Pain at implant site
  • Minor bleeding

You may require antibiotics or pain medication following your surgery, depending on your situation. If this is the case, the dental team at 5thandolive dental will provide these to you ahead of time. If you do experience pain and/or discomfort that gets worse or does not begin to resolve in a few days, please contact our office and we will get you in as soon as possible to address the issue.

Reducing Risk of Implant Failure

Research shows that implants have a 95% success rate. However, there are some cases where the implant does fail. One of these contributing factors is smoking, which is why we do not typically recommend implants for patients who smoke.

If the implant does fail, it will be removed, and the bone will be cleaned up. If you want to try again, we can do so in three months. There are several things you can do to increase the chance of success and reduce the risk of failure:

  • Practice good oral hygiene habits: brush twice daily and floss in the evenings. You may want to get an interdental brush so that you can get into the nooks and crannies around the teeth, gums, and metal posts
  • Visit the dentist regularly for exams and cleanings- every 6 months is ideal
  • Avoid bad habits: don’t crunch on ice or hard candies, as this can cause the crown to be broken or possibly your remaining natural teeth. Also, avoid smoking and excessive caffeine use. Finally, if you grind your teeth, consider getting a mouthguard.

Schedule Your Consultation Today

If you are in or near Olive Way, Seattle, and are missing one or more teeth, contact our office today to schedule your consultation. Our dental team strives to help you stay relaxed and comfortable during your appointment. We have been providing high-quality dental care for our patients in the Olive way area for a long period of time, so you can trust us completely.

We are located on 509 Olive Way #1542 Seattle, WA. Our office hours are Tuesday – Thursday 7-4, Friday – Appointment only. We look forward to serving you in all of your dental needs, including missing teeth.