Facts about Dental Implants

How Do Implants Work?

Dental implants allow patients who have suffered tooth loss a fixed solution to tooth replacement. Often considered a more appealing option than conventional partials/dentures (removable solutions) and/or bridges, dental implants are A dental implant is a device that provides a solution to tooth loss other than a denture or bridge. It allows the single tooth to be replaced in most cases without disturbing the adjacent teeth. Replacing a natural tooth's root, dental implants are placed in the jawbone. This allows the bone to grow around and bond with the implant, therefore securing it in place. This process is called osseointegration. As lower end of the implant lies below the gumline, the upper end of the implant becomes an abutment and serves as an anchor for which to hold a crown and/or a fixed denture. When completed, you have your own tooth back via the implant and the replacement tooth that attaches to it. It needs to be brushed and flossed to prevent gum disease and bone loss, but will never decay like your own tooth could.

Deciding If Implants Are Right For You

For patients who are missing one or more teeth, dental implants are often an option to consider. Patients of any age can be a candidate for implant dentistry. Patients who are in good health (meaning healthy enough to undergo routine dental procedures to remove teeth and or oral surgery) should at least consider implant dentistry as an alternative to tooth loss. Candidates who have uncontrolled chronic diseases, poorly controlled diabetes, systemic problems or present as heavy smokers may not be good candidates for this procedure. The first step in the decision is to make an appointment for an evaluation. A dentist who is well trained in dental implant placement and/or surgery (or both) will examine your mouth and teeth and take a thorough medical and dental history. You'll receive X-rays and possibly a CT scan (the CT scan shows bone density and the shape of the jaw). Have the dentist trained with implants discuss the treatment possibilities available to you and see if implant dentistry is the right choice for you.

Root-Form Implants

One of the most popular types of implant's today is the root-form implant. Root-form implants are placed within the bone. In order for these implants to be successful, the bone needs to be deep enough and wide enough to provide a secure foundation. These implants are usually made of titanium or a titanium alloy. Implant treatment is divided into three phases: surgical, healing and prosthetic.

The Surgical Phase
In the surgical phase, the area is numbed with a local anesthetic and then, the bone is exposed. A small opening is then made in the bone where the implant will be placed. The implant is then inserted and the procedure is closed with a few small stitches which will be removed in 1-2 weeks.

The Healing Phase
During the healing phase, surrounding bone fuses to the implant's surface. Typically, implants placed in the lower arch of the mouth require 3-4 months to heal. Implants placed in the upper arch of the mouth often need 6-8 months to heal. Implant patients are not without teeth during the healing process! They are able to wear their own dentures and/or partials while the healing process is taking place. For a single tooth implant patient, a small appliance is made to wear in place of the missing tooth.

The Prosthetic Phase
After the healing phase, the healed (osseointegrated) implant is then exposed and an abutment is place on the implant in order to anchor the tooth for a crown, a bridge, or a fixed denture.

Other Types Of Implants

Subperiosteal Implants
Subperiosteal implants are custom-made to your jaw and are most commonly used in people whose lower jaws are not strong enough to support root-form implants. These implants support specially made dentures. Subperiosteal implants are used less often now. Due to the fact that patients are now able to receive bone transplants (grafts) to increase the volume of bone, the subperiosteal implant is used less often in today's world of implant dentistry.

Ramus-Frame Implants
A Ramus-frame implant can be used if the lower jawbone is too thin even for a subperiosteal implant. Dentures are made that can fit onto a bar within the Ramus-implant. Ramus-frame implants also stabilize weak jaws and help prevent them from fracturing.

Blade-Form Implants
Also known as plate-form implants, blade-form implants are a type of endosseous implant. In the past, they were used when a person's jawbone was not wide enough for root-form implants. Dentists today will often try to reestablish lost bone through grafting in order to use root-form implants.

Bone Grafting

Implant dentistry can sometimes require bone grafting. This procedure allows the dentist to build up the bone in the area in order to increase the success rate of the implant. Bone for the graft is generally collected from other areas of the mouth or body, such as the hip (in which case your dentist will employ the services of an orthopedic surgeon). Bone is also harvested under strict supervision at bone and tissue banks around the country from cadavers. It is very safe and used in many dental and medical procedures.

Possible Complications

Implant surgery holds a 90% success rate! Most implant surgery and restoration goes off without a hitch. However, a major cause of implant failure is nicotine, whether from smoke, chewing tobacco or gum. Certain medications may also affect integration. Titanium allergies are extremely rare, but they also could cause failure. Complications such as infection, can also result in the loss of the implant. If complications do arise all is not lost. A new implant usually can be placed within a few months.