What is a dental implant? In the simplest terms, a dental implant is a tiny metal fixture, surgically placed into either jaw, which replaces a missing tooth’s roots. When completed, tiny posts protrude from the surface of the gingiva, or gums. The dentist then positions and attaches a bridge, artificial teeth known as crowns, to each post. Implants are comprised of either pure titanium or an alloy thereof. Titanium is highly corrosion-resistant and is most widely known for having a tensile strength far greater than steel. It is also a unique metal, in that the human body adapts well to its presence without causing an allergic or toxic reaction in the human body, which allows tissues to heal well. The microscopically roughened surface of dental implants helps the bone tissue to bond with, and grow onto the implant. This provides a strong, stable “replacement root,” or anchor to which the artificial tooth or bridge attaches. Dental implants last for several years, even decades, providing the patient brushes, flosses, and maintains overall good oral health, including regular checkups with her or his dental health care professional.
How long will implants last? Long-term studies conducted for more than 30 years have proven a success rate for patients who were missing all of their teeth of 80- to 90-percent. Those patients who were missing one to several teeth had an even higher success rate of 95 percent. This clearly indicates that dental implants are a proven method of permanently replacing teeth lost to decay, injury, or extraction. It is occasionally necessary to remove a dental implant when it does not heal properly or it becomes loose; however, after the site has healed, it usually possible to place another implant, in some cases on the same day.
What is involved in placing an implant? Implants involve a surgical procedure, and while the surgery itself is relatively minor, it takes place in a hospital-style operating room, with the latest in instruments and equipment, and with every measure taken to ensure maximum sterility and patient comfort. Either local or general anesthesias are available. The doctor and the patient discuss which option and agree prior to the surgery.
Placing dental implants usually necessitates two separate procedures, or phases. In the first phase, the oral surgeon will incise the gum where the implant is to be placed, then create a small, precise opening in the jaw into which each implant is placed. When done, the doctor will suture closed the gum over each implant. The implant is allowed to bond to the bone tissue of the jaw for the next three to six months. During this time, the usually wears temporary dentures and eats a soft diet. Also during this time, the dentist orders the replacement crowns. The complete implant process is actually a professional collaboration between the oral surgeon, who performs the implant surgery itself and the dentist, who performs any needed tooth extraction and bone grafting, as well as measuring for and creating the prosthesis (crown or bridge). The dentist may also make a temporary prosthesis for the patient to wear until the implant has fully bonded with the bone tissue.
When the implant has bonded and during the second portion of the implant procedure, the oral surgeon will make a minute incision in the gingiva over each implant, and then install a miniscule, threaded titanium post into each one. The bridge or crown is attached onto each post and, once done, the posts are no longer visible. The result looks natural, like real teeth!
Does it always take this long? Well, not necessarily. Using the latest advances in dentistry, 7 Day Dental’s doctors in some cases can place dental implants in one procedure, which is referred to as single-stage implants. There are also circumstances where it is possible to place implants immediately after tooth extraction. This minimizes the number of surgical procedures, but it still requires a minimum of six weeks to heal before placing artificial teeth or a bridge. As more advances in dentistry occur, it is possible that the overall time to place implants will decrease even further.
Who is a candidate for implants? Possibly, even likely, you are. A viable candidate is someone who is missing one or more teeth, or anyone who is unhappy wearing dentures. Of course, a thorough oral examination is necessary, as well as a review of a patient’s dental and medical history. Age is not a deterrent. However, conditions such as diabetes, radiation therapy at the implant site, and smoking are all factors that have proven to reduce the success rate of implants. In most cases, there are treatments to improve the outcome, for example, bone grafting if there is additional bone needed to enhance the bonding of the implant. Keep in mind, though, placing implants becomes more difficult and complex the longer a tooth is missing.
Why should I seriously consider implants? This is a question only you can decide, but here are some things to consider. Your teeth affect your whole body and quality of life. A missing tooth, or teeth, can affect how you speak, how and what you are able to eat, and how you look, for starters. If you are missing teeth, the remaining teeth are going to be working harder to do the job your whole set of teeth used to do, which can – and usually does – cause them to wear out prematurely or become damaged. This situation can also cause headaches and jaw pain. The inability to masticate (chew) properly often causes improper digestion of food, in some cases causing indigestion, which in itself can be serious or even fatal in extreme cases. In addition to deteriorating health, who wants to have a deteriorating appearance? In addition to weight loss associated with improperly digested food, missing teeth can cause the cheeks to appear sucked in, making a person look gaunt. Also, the natural consequence of missing teeth is the assimilation of the jawbone tissue. What this means is that the body absorbs the area of jawbone around the missing tooth, or teeth, reducing the bone density in that area, up to about 25 percent loss in the first year alone. In more graphic terms, the jaw literally melts away. This happens because the bone of the jaw in the area of the missing tooth no longer receives the stimulation caused by the force of chewing, which in turn causes jawbone cell replacement in a healthy mouth.
The best news is that implants correct problems caused by missing or damaged teeth. Implants help to preserve jawbone structure and facial structure. They function as well as natural teeth, enabling you to eat properly and to feel and look your best, and they last for decades. If you are missing teeth, or are going to have a tooth extraction, you should consider getting dental implants. Your oral surgeon and your dentist will fully explain the process to you in great detail. They will discuss all options available to you, and ensure you have a thorough understanding of the implant procedure enabling you to make an the right decision.