Dental Implants are one of the newest and greatest innovations in modern day dentistry. They are designed to provide a foundation for the replacement of teeth which look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved so they can smile with confidence.
What are Dental Implants?
The implants themselves are small titanium alloy metal posts, which are inserted into the jawbone where teeth are missing. They can be used to replace one or more missing teeth, and are especially useful to secure loose dentures. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes. They are placed into the jawbone using a precise well proven surgical technique such that they bond to the bone itself. This creates a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Small posts (abutments) are then attached to the implant, which protrude through the gums. The prosthesis is then attached to this post.
The Surgical Procedure
Implant surgery is usually performed in the office under local anesthesia or intravenous sedation. The first step is to surgically insert the implant into the jawbone. The tightness of the implant is measured using a torque gauge and if sufficient resistance is obtained, a temporary gingival healing cuff is attached to the implant that will protrude through the gums. If the implant is not tight enough, a cover screw is attached to the implant and the gum tissue is closed over the implant with sutures. After a period of time ( usually 2 to 6 months), the implant is uncovered and a healing cuff is placed. You should be able to wear temporary dentures and eat a normal diet during this time.
After the implant has bonded (osseointegrated) to the jawbone, and the gum tissue has healed around the healing cuff, the restorative phase begins. Your dentist will remove the healing cuff and place the artificial tooth or attachment to secure a denture.
Using the most recent advances in dental implant technology, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons are sometimes able to place a dental implant at the same time that a tooth is extracted. There may even be situations where the tooth can be extracted, an implant placed, and a temporary crown placed. This process, is called “immediate loading”and should only be done in select cases.
Another recent innovation involves the use of computer software to precisely plan the placement of dental implants. A CT scan of your jaw is obtained and using the software program, the three dimensional anatomy can be viewed and precise implant positions selected. A surgical guide can then be made such that the implants can be placed and the prosthesis delivered on the same day.
Who actually performs the implant placement?
Implants are a team effort between an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and a Restorative Dentist. While the oral surgeon performs the actual implant surgery and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist ( usually your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process. A surgical guide made by your dentist may be requested by the oral surgeon to help in proper placement of the implant.
What types of prosthesis are available?
A single prosthesis (crown) is used to replace one missing tooth – each prosthetic tooth attaches to its own implant. A partial prosthesis ( fixed bridge) can replace two or more teeth and may require only two or three implants. A complete prosthesis replaces all the teeth in your jaw. The number of implants required varies depending upon the type of complete prosthesis (removable or fixed) desired. A removable prosthesis (overdenture) attaches to a bar or ball in socket attachment, whereas a fixed one is directly attached to the implants and removed only by your dentist.
Why dental implants?
Once you learn about dental implants, you finally realize there is a way to improve your life. When you loose several teeth – whether it’s a new situation or something you have lived with for years – chances are you have never become fully accustomed to losing such a vital part of yourself.
Dental implants can be your doorway to renewed self-confidence and peace of mind.
A Swedish scientist and surgeon, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, developed this concept for oral rehabilitation more than thirty-five years ago. With his pioneering research, Dr. Branemark opened the door to a lifetime of renewed comfort and self-confidence for millions of people facing the frustration and embarrassment of tooth loss.
Why select dental implants over more traditional types of restorations?
First and foremost, you should always discuss all your treatment options with your dentist and oral surgeon! Implants are recommended for several reasons. A traditional bridge to replace a missing tooth involves the reduction of the adjacent teeth for crowns. If these teeth are healthy and do not require crowns, then an implant is the treatment of choice. Many people do not tolerate a removable prosthesis. Removing a denture or a “ partial” at night can be inconvenient, not to mention that dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing. A denture may also affect speech or taste and can aggravate a gag reflex.
Are you a candidate for dental implants?
If you are considering implants, your mouth must be examined thoroughly and your medical and dental history reviewed. If your mouth is not ideal for implants, ways of improving outcome, such as bone grafting, may be recommended.
Do implants need special care?
Once the implants are in place, they should serve you well for many years if you take care of them and keep your mouth healthy. This means taking the time for good oral hygiene and keeping regular appointments with your dental implant team.