History of dental implants
Even early civilizations recognized the benefit of tooth replacement. Archeologists have recovered ancient skulls where teeth were replaced by materials such as cast iron and carved sea shells. Despite primitive methods and materials, some of these early implants actually fused with the bone. This fusion is called osseointegration, and is necessary for implants to be successful.Titanium dental implants have been placed extensively since the 1970s. Titanium offers the benefit of being lightweight and strong, and is not rejected by the body (biocompatible). It is the most widely used metal in orthopedic joint replacement and dental implants. Dental implants have the highest success rate of any implanted surgical device.
Today’s dental implants
Modern dental implants are precision devices, available in several different designs to address your specific needs. The most common type is a titanium screw that is anchored into the jawbone where it serves as post for a custom-made tooth crown. Once the crown is in place, you may not be able to tell it apart from your natural teeth.
Stop the bone loss that can lead to premature aging!
Losing one or more of your teeth starts a chain of events that can have dire physical and cosmetic consequences. The most obvious result is a gap in your smile. Less obvious is the loss of chewing function and the inability to eat a complete diet that can result from tooth loss. While these are certainly serious issues, a potentially bigger problem lies hidden beneath the surface: bone loss. Your jawbone needs the chewing action of the teeth to stimulate it and keep it strong. Otherwise it will begin to disappear (atrophy) in the same manner that the unused muscles beneath a cast supporting a broken bone get smaller. Without the support of your teeth and facial bones, your face will begin to look prematurely aged. The good news is that tooth replacement with dental implants offers a solution to help prevent bone loss.
Tooth Replacement Options
Traditional treatment options for tooth replacement, Crown & Bridge and full or partial dentures, address the short-term cosmetic problem of missing teeth, but do nothing to stop bone loss. Crown & Bridge also requires that two or more healthy teeth be ground down to serve as abutments (posts) for a bridge, leaving them at a much greater risk for cavities and endodontic failure. If the original abutment teeth fail, more healthy teeth must be sacrificed to serve as posts, while you continue to lose bone beneath the bridge.
With implants, however, the healthy teeth are left alone. Dental implants, like natural teeth, also transmit chewing forces to the jawbone, which reduces bone loss. This is why many leading dental organizations now recognize dental implants as the standard of care for tooth replacement.
Single Tooth Replacement
An implant may be used to replace almost any missing tooth, provided there is adequate bone at the site. If not, modern procedures can usually be performed to regenerate enough bone to safely place an implant. The implant is placed in the bone below the gum tissue. A temporary abutment may be placed on the implant until the healing phase is complete. A cosmetic temporary crown can often be made to fill the missing space. After healing, the abutment is attached to the implant. It will hold a custom-made crown that the dental laboratory will mold and match to your existing teeth. In the final step, the custom crown is cemented onto the abutment. The tooth has been replaced without disturbing the healthy teeth next to it and bone loss has been eliminated.
Multiple tooth replacement
Implants can also be used to replace several teeth, eliminating the need to grind down healthy adjacent teeth to serve as posts for traditional Crown & Bridge therapy. The implants are placed in the bone below the gum tissue. Like single tooth replacement, temporary abutments may be placed on the implants until the healing phase is complete. After healing, the abutments are attached to the implants. They will hold a custom-made bridge that the dental laboratory will mold and match to your existing teeth. In the final step, the custom bridge is cemented onto the abutments. The teeth have been replaced without disturbing the healthy teeth next to them, and bone loss has been halted.
Implant-supported prosthesis (Removable)
If all your lower teeth are missing, five implants may be used to support a lower denture. If all your upper teeth are missing, six or more implants may be used to support an upper denture. The implants are positioned just below the gum tissue and given time to fuse with the bone. Temporary abutments may be placed on the implants until the healing phase is complete. Your existing denture can be modified so that it may be worn without disturbing the implants during the healing process. You will be fitted for a custom-made bar that attaches to the implants to support a new denture. Your existing denture may be modified to be worn during this period.The new denture will have attachments which snap or clip it into place. Your new teeth are firmly supported by the jaw, stimulating it and halting bone loss. You will be able to remove the denture easily for cleaning.
Implant-supported prosthesis (Fixed)
If all your lower or upper teeth are missing, a permanent bridge may be attached directly to the implants. The number of implants is determined by the specific requirements of each case. The implants are positioned just below the gum tissue and given time to fuse with the bone. Temporary abutments may be placed on the implants until the healing phase is complete. Your existing denture may be modified so that it can be worn without disturbing the implants during the healing process. You will be fitted for a custom bridge that screws directly into the implants. The screw holes will be covered after insertion. Your new teeth are firmly supported by the jaw, stimulating it and halting bone loss. Your dentist will be able to remove the prosthesis when necessary for cleaning and maintenance.
If all your lower teeth are missing, two to four implants may be used to stabilize a lower denture. The implants are positioned just below the gum tissue and given time to fuse with the bone. Temporary abutments may be placed on the implants until the healing phase is complete. Your existing denture may be modified so that it can be worn without disturbing the implants during the healing process.Dental implants can provide stability to your existing loose denture. After healing, ball-top posts are attached to the implants. Your old denture may be modified to hold clips that snap over the ball-tops, or a new denture with clips will be made. The denture is snapped into place, where it is retained by the implants and supported by the soft tissue. You simply snap the denture out each night for cleaning.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is the implant placement painful?
A: No, it is usually done under local anesthesia. Most procedures can be done in your dentist’s office.
Q: How much pain will I feel after implant placement?
A: The discomfort you may feel should be minor. Your dentist may prescribe medication to alleviate any pain you may have.
Q: How long does it take to place dental implants?
A: Usually 30-60 minutes, depending on the location and the number of implants.
Q: What can I eat after having an implant placed?
A: Your dentist will outline a diet for the next few days including some soft foods.
Q: How long does placement, healing and construction of the replacement teeth take?
A: The entire process usually takes from 3 to 9 months, depending on your treatment plan.
Q: How do I care for my implant?
A: Home care for your implants consists of brushing and flossing. Regular dental visits are required for long-term health and success.
Q: How long does an implant last?
A: If your body accepts the implant, it should last many years if cared for properly. Many implants have been in place for more than 40 years.
Q: If my body rejects an implant, what happens?
A: The implant is removed and the site is allowed to heal. Another implant can usually be placed after healing.
Q: Are dental implants covered by insurance?
A: Like most elective procedures, dental implants may not be covered by most dental insurance plans. However, Dr. Diaz may be able to offer payment plan options to make it more affordable for individuals who need them.
Q: Am I a candidiate for dental implants?
A: Dental implants can be placed in most adults who are in good to moderate health. They are not typically placed in adolescents until they have reached their full expected physical and skeletal maturity. Certain uncontrolled medical conditions may decrease the effectiveness of implant treatment, so be sure to discuss your full medical history with Dr.Diaz before beginning treatment. Every patient is different and patient results may vary. Only a trained clinician can determine the best treatment plan for you. Please ask Dr. Diaz to explain the benefits and risks to see if tooth replacement with implants is right for you.
Missing teeth and loose dentures make too many people sit on the sidelines and let life pass them by. Today’s modern treatment plans can replace everything from a single missing tooth to a completely missing arch. Don’t let another day go by without taking this important first step to restoring your confidence and your smile!
Please ask Dr. Jennifer H. Diaz, a Board Certified Periodontist, about the different dental implant options that are available to you!