Dental implants are the most natural-looking (and feeling) replacement for a missing permanent tooth. The implant (a small titanium screw) replaces your missing tooth root and is placed in your jaw. After recovery, the implant is fitted with a porcelain tooth that's a replica of your missing tooth. The finished product looks indistinguishable from a natural tooth—or at least, it should.
Although it's prosthetic, a dental implant still utilizes the organic tissues in your mouth. It's surrounded by your gums, which helps to support the implant. It's also embedded in your jawbone, which heals around the implant to lock it into position.
A dentist has a little flexibility with placing an implant. It needs to be in the approximate location of the tooth root it's replacing, but it may not necessarily be placed at the direct center of your gum ridge. A dentist must place an implant where your jawbone is at its thickest (with some patients needing bone grafting to guarantee this thickness). To achieve maximum stability for an implant, it may be inserted at an angle. For some patients, this means that the implant is placed towards the front of their gum tissues.
The trouble with placing an implant towards the front of your gums is that these soft tissues are perhaps not as thick as you might have thought. In some cases, the implant's location means that a small dark shape (which is the titanium screw of the implant) becomes visible in the gums. This small dark shape is permanent. How can a dentist prevent this from happening in the first place?
Dental implants involve the creation of an individualized surgical guide, so your dentist will know exactly where the implant will be placed before your surgery begins. If there's any concern about the implant's visibility, it may not look entirely natural, which defeats the purpose of the procedure. As such, your dentist may suggest a slight substitution.
Although most dental implants are made of titanium, they're not exclusively metal. Instead, your dentist can decide to place a light-colored implant made of zirconia (a type of ceramic). It offers comparable strength and performance to a titanium implant, but its light color means it won't be visible, no matter how close to the surface of your gums the implant is placed.
So, if it looks like your new dental implant will be more conspicuous than you first thought, don't be surprised if your dentist suggests an alternative material.
For more information about dental implants, contact a local dental office.