What are dental implants?
Beginning in the 1950s researchers observed that the metal titanium, and some other materials, formed a very strong bond to surrounding bone, a process termed “osseointegration.”
After years of careful research and study, dental implants (titanium cylinders placed into the jawbone to support replacement teeth) were refined with high success rates. There are now patients who have had implant supported teeth for more than twenty-five years.
Thus osseointegration began a revolution in dentistry, and at last, an answer to the many problems associated with missing teeth.
Why should you consider dental implants?
If you, like millions of Americans, have lost one or more teeth, you may be all too familiar with the unpleasant consequences. For many, missing teeth lead to an unattractive smile, embarrassment from loose dentures, and pain or difficulty with eating. Traditional dentistry can provide replacements for missing teeth using bridges, removable partials and dentures; however, each of these has its problems.
Bridgework usually involves altering natural teeth to provide a stable foundation for support of replacement teeth. Partials and dentures can, at times, be very unstable leading to denture sores or speech difficulties.
Another little known problem associated with tooth loss is a process known as “atrophy,” a shrinking of the jawbone that can progress relentlessly over the years. Bone atrophy not only affects jaw function, but can cause adverse facial cosmetic changes.
Because of the remarkable advances in dentistry in recent years, dental implants offer an effective solution to many of these problems.
Is Implantology a Specialty Area of Dentistry?
No, Implantology is NOT a recognized specialty by the American Dental Association. Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery is one of several recognized specialties of the American Dental Association. Oral and Maxillofacial surgeons were the first doctors to place implants when modern implant dentistry was started 25 years ago and they remain the leaders in the placement of dental implants.
How are dental implants placed?
Dental implants are usually completed in two phases.
Phase #1 (Surgical phase performed by the oral surgeon) is the actual implant placement, a process generally performed in the office with local anesthesia or light sedation to help make the patient more comfortable. The oral surgeon uses precise, gentle surgical techniques to place the implants into the jawbone for 3 months while osseointegration (bonding to bone) takes place. This helps ensure a strong, solid foundation for replacement teeth. During this time, temporary bridges or dentures may be used to minimize any cosmetic or chewing inconvenience.
Phase #2 (Restorative phase performed by your general dentist or prosthodontist) involves creating and attaching the new tooth or teeth to the anchored implant(s) in your jaw. Dental implants can replace a single tooth, several teeth or complete dentures. Your dentist can recommend the best choice for you.
What are some of the benefits of dental implants?
Dental implants are an effective, safe and predictable solution to the problems resulting from missing teeth. Many patients report exciting benefits from dental implants, such as:
Replacement teeth look, feel and function like natural teeth
- Improved taste and appetite
- Improved cosmetic appearance
- The ability to chew without pain or gum irritation
- Improved quality of life
One additional and very important benefit can be the reduction or elimination of bone atrophy or shrinkage, commonly associated with loss of teeth.
What factors contribute to long-term success of dental implants?
Long-term success depends on multiple factors. First off, 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.
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.
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 oral surgeon will discuss all postoperative instructions with you.