For people with missing teeth, dentures and bridges are no longer the only options to restore the look and function of their mouth. Dental implants are a modern, long-term solution for replacing missing or damaged teeth. Implants are considered a more realistic and aesthetically pleasing alternative to dentures, though the procedure is more complex. For a patient considering restoration options, the process and advantages of dental implants can be confusing. Read on for a run-down of the procedure, the benefits and some disadvantages of implants.
Dental implants as we know them today were invented in 1952 by an orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Implants are surgically placed replacement tooth roots fitted with a realistic-looking artificial tooth over top. The implant is designed to complement or match the remaining teeth. Integrating into the jaw bone, the titanium tooth root provides a strong foundation for artificial teeth.
Most dental implants are now made from titanium and are used to replace a single tooth, several teeth or a full set. The success rate for dental implants is almost 98%. Unlike other restoration options, dental implants allow patients to talk and eat easily as the artificial teeth are implanted directly into the jaw bone. If cared for properly, dental implants will last a patient’s lifetime.
A comprehensive consultation, exam and x-rays are the first steps of the dental implant procedure. It is important that the quality and quantity of the jawbone are assessed for suitability since it plays such an important role in the treatment. Following this stage, it may be necessary to remove teeth, depending on their condition and placement. A bone graft may also be needed to provide a solid base of bone for the implant. Healing time is essential after both of these procedures.
Next, the dental implants are inserted into the jawbone and then left to fuse with the bone for six weeks or more. This fusion anchors the implant securely to the jaw, providing excellent individual stability for the artificial tooth that will later be attached. The healing period after the surgery allows the jaw to recover. A temporary denture can be made during this waiting time so that you don’t have to have space in your mouth. Follow-up appointments are a necessity to check the healing status and to avoid infection.
Once the healing time has passed, a connector called an ‘abutment’ is attached to the implant, and a crown or artificial tooth is placed over the top of that. Once treatment is completed, care instructions will be given to aid the life of the new implant(s). Just like with natural teeth, dental implants require regular and conscientious at-home care, as they can still be vulnerable to plaque. Blushing and flushing twice a day is recommended alongside healthy eating habits and regular dental visits.
The most common concern for patients considering implants is usually how painful the procedure will be. Performed under local anesthetic, the implantation causes little to no pain. Levels of discomfort following surgery can vary between patients, but can usually be managed with over-the-counter medication. The cost of the treatment is another concern for many people. While it is true that other teeth replacement options initially cost less than implants, it is important to remember that dental implants are a permanent solution if looked after properly.
With a high success rate and predictable results, implants are a reliable and aesthetically pleasing answer to missing or damaged teeth. With proper care and maintenance, implants can provide a solution to last a lifetime. Implants are a safe, well-established treatment but not everyone is a candidate for the procedure. Speak to your dentist for more information and a consultation.