A natural tooth consists of a crown (the part you see above the gum), and the root (the part hidden under the gum, within the jawbone). It is the root, which actually holds the natural tooth in place. When a person is missing a tooth, the dentist must decide how to re-create the crown portion, and choose the best method to hold it in place. Dental implants were created for this purpose.
Dental implants are metallic cylinders, which are placed into the jawbone where original teeth once existed. These root like cylinders are used to secure a replacement tooth in place when a tooth is missing. Dental implants can also be used to secure teeth in place that are loose by being placed alongside these loose teeth and anchoring to them with splinted crowns. This will allow the loose teeth to function better, and last longer, in the mouth.
Dental implants are made of various biomaterials. Most commonly, a surgical metal called titanium is used, because it is the most compatible with human biology. They are surgically placed in the jawbone, right in the dentist's office, using a local anesthetic. Approved and tested implant systems are very successful. In fact, some have lasted more than 20 years with a better than 90% success rate. Patients who have good oral hygiene and take care of their new teeth can enjoy implants that last a lifetime.
Why do I need Dental Implants?
People lose one or more teeth for a wide variety of reasons, including infection, gum disease, accident or injury. When natural teeth are removed, many problems occur. The remaining teeth shift, rotate and become crooked. An improper bite will develop, making it very difficult to chew food properly. Spaces and gaps between teeth may cause embarrassment, problems with speech, and lack of self-esteem. Dental implants, when properly placed, can restore missing teeth, thereby eliminating these potential problems. People who have teeth replaced with dental implants report better ability to chew food and eat properly, renewed confidence while speaking, and better self-esteem.
If you have been thinking about getting dental implants, you are probably wondering if you are a possible candidate for this procedure. You can take this simple test to see if this procedure might help you.
Ask yourself the following questions:
Am I missing one, two, or more teeth?
Do I hide my smile because of unsightly spaces between my teeth or because I am missing teeth?
Do I lack confidence when I smile, speak or eat?
Am I having trouble eating, chewing, or speaking properly?
Are my teeth loose, or am I getting or in need of treatment for advanced gum disease?
Do I have dentures that slip or cause sore spots when I chew?
Do my dentures need to be relined frequently because of bone resorption?
Do I carry my complete or partial dentures in my pocket or leave them at home?
Am I having any problems with existing crowns or bridges, either functionally or cosmetically?
Are the teeth holding my bridge loosening or moving?
Can I wait three to nine months for the entire implant process to be completed?
Will I be willing to commit to the high standard of home care that is necessary to properly maintain a dental implant?
Will I follow up with regular dental checkups?
Do I believe that my life could be improved if my teeth were improved?
If you answered "yes" to one or more of these questions, you may be a candidate for the dental implant procedure.
Dental implants replace the form and function of missing teeth. They support replacement teeth in virtually the same way that your natural tooth root supports your natural teeth.
Various replacement options are possible:
Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, so that grinding down or altering adjacent teeth is no longer necessary.
Dental implants can be used as anchors to support a fixed bridge.
Dental implants can support loose teeth by being splinted to them.
Dental implants can support replacement teeth for an entirely toothless jaw
Dental implants can provide stability for a complete denture, thereby eliminating unsightly moving and clicking associated with dentures.
Dental Implants are actually an amazing procedure, actually giving you a second chance for your teeth!
What exactly does the Implant procedure involve?
First, you will need to discuss your options with your dentist. Together, it will be decided if you are a good candidate for dental implants. The dentist will take a complete dental history, x-rays, and complete a thorough oral examination. If you are a candidate for implant surgery, the procedure is as follows:
1) Surgical placement of the implant(s) into the bone. This is usually done right in the dentist's office, with a local anesthetic. After surgery, there is a healing period of approximately four months. During this time, the implants fuse to the bone by a process known as Osseo integration.
2) Next, there is a minor surgical exposure of the top of the implant, whereby the dentist will attach the post to the implant. The function of the post is to become the support for either one tooth or a set of teeth. This is a short procedure that usually requires only local anesthesia.
3) The last phase is the restorative phase. The dentist will take impressions and then make a prosthesis that will attach to the implants. This will require several visits. Once completed, your mouth will be restored to natural looking, strong teeth.
Is the concept of dental implants a new one?
Interestingly, dental implants have been performed for thousands of years. Egyptian mummies have been found with gold wire implants in the jawbones. Pre-Columbian skeletal remains exhibit dental implants made of semi-precious stones. Recently, a Roman soldier was unearthed in Europe with an iron dental implant in his jawbone. In the Middle East, implants made of ivory have been discovered in skeletons from the Middle Ages.
Modern implantology began in the United States at the beginning of the 20th century. However, popularity really grew in the 1980's with the increased success of the titanium cylinder. Since then, many brand name implants with minor variations have been approved.
What factors contribute to long-term success of Dental Implants?
Long-term success depends on multiple factors. Firstly, success will depend on the quality and quantity of bone. The better the bone and the more available, the greater the chance of long-term success. Secondly, the experience and ability of the dental surgeon will be a factor. As with any surgical procedure, there is no substitute for the experience and individual talent of the dentist. And finally, the quality of the restoration placed on top of the implant will play a big role in long-term success. If the design of the implant crowns or overdentures are poorly constructed, and biting forces are not balanced, even the best-placed dental implant will have a compromised survival rate.
Who can place a dental implant in my mouth?
A periodontist, an oral surgeon, or an implantologist places dental implants. The periodontist and oral surgeon are teamed with a restorative dentist. They will place the implants and then the patient will be seen by a restorative dentist for completion of the crowns or overlying appliance. There will be two dentists during the course of treatment. An implantologist is trained in both dental implant surgery and restoration of the dental prosthesis. An implantologist will do both the surgery and the restoration, and there will be only one dentist during the course of treatment. Click here (link to come) to find an implantologist near you.
Who can restore the teeth on the top of dental implants?
A general dentist trained to restore implants, an oral implantologist, or a prosthodontist can restore teeth. It is the choice of the patient to use a "one doctor approach" whereby the oral implantologist does both the surgery and the restoration, or the ??two doctor approach?? whereby the surgery and restoration are performed by two different clinicians. Click here (link to come) to find an implantologist near you.
Are there any age limitations for dental implants?
No. Any person at any age can have dental implants as long as there is enough bone available in which to place the implants.
What might be some of the factors that would prevent me from being an implant candidate?
There are some medical factors that might prevent a person from being a good candidate for dental implants. Some of these may be uncontrolled diabetes, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, parathyroid disorders, blood disorders, rare bone disorders or bone marrow cancer. Some physical factors may include insufficient or poor quality bone, low sinuses or nerve bundles.
How often will I need to have my dental implants checked?
The success of your implants will depend greatly on how well you maintain them. They will need to be professionally cleaned by a hygienist and examined by your implant dentist every three to four months. This hygienist should be trained in the specific procedure of maintaining dental implants. Also, brushing and flossing daily is absolutely necessary for long-term success.
Is dental implant surgery painful?
No. An effective local anesthetic is used during the surgery so that you do not have any discomfort during the placement of the implants. The mild discomfort you might experience after surgery can be controlled with medications.
When can I return to work after implant surgery?
You can go to work the next day, unless some particular surgical circumstance arises. Your implant dentist will discuss all postoperative instructions with you.