Dentists often recommend the use of a dental implant for patients who are missing teeth. Dental implants use a fabricated tooth root. The jawbone fuses to the implant and gives the tooth a secure base for an artificial tooth or prosthesis. An abutment is a small object which connects the prosthesis to the implant.
Dental implant abutments are typically made from titanium or zirconia. The abutment serves as a connection for the implant, but also aids in maintaining attractive and healthy gums which support the dental restoration. The materials which are used for the abutment impact the strength and appearance of the implant, it is important to work with your dentist to select the proper abutment material based on your needs.
Healing abutments, which may also be called a healing cuff or cap, aid in healing the gum tissue which surrounds the implant site. Once the gum is completely healed, the final abutment is then placed and the prosthesis is attached to the implant. It is possible to place the abutments and the implant at the same time, however, they can also be placed separately following the placement of the implant. The abutment does not attach directly to the dental implant, but it does have a critical role in the healing process.
Abutment placement process:
- Implant exposure: When the abutment is placed separately from the implant, the dental professional will make a small incision in the gum
- Healing abutment placement: In many cases, a healing abutment is temporarily used and attached to the implant
- Final abutment placement: Once the gums are healed, the final abutment is placed after taking an impression
Following the Abutment Placement
For most patients, it takes about four to six weeks for the gums to heal around the abutment. It is important to closely follow the advice of the surgeon or dentist regarding your diet and any restrictions. Patients are also given specific instructions for properly cleaning around the abutment. Following the proper cleaning protocol helps to prevent infection and promote efficient healing.
Once the abutment is placed, follow-up with your surgeon or dentist if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Persistent bleeding
- Jaws, mouth, or sinus pain which does not improve with medication
- Fever over 100.4ºF/38ºC
- Abutment which does not feel secure
Once the gums are healed around the abutment, the dentist will start created the permanent prosthesis or artificial tooth. It may require multiple visits in order to create an accurate model of your mouth. It may take a few weeks or months to create the prosthesis.
To custom-fit the prosthesis, the dentist creates molds of the jaws, teeth, and abutments. Bite registrations are also taken to determine precisely how the teeth fit together. These molds are used to create a perfect replica of your mouth and create the prosthesis.
Once the prosthesis is ready, several appointments will be scheduled to properly fit the artificial tooth and ensure it feels comfortable inside your mouth. Once the required adjustments are complete, the prosthesis is attached to the abutments. Hard, sticky and crunchy foods should be avoided for a few weeks following the attachment of the prosthesis.
Once the prosthesis is attached, follow-up with your dentist if you any of the following issues:
- Jaw pain
- Uncomfortable bite
- Prosthesis feels loose, chips, or breaks
- Loose implants or abutments