Posts for tag: dental implants
Q: I’ve heard about dental implants, but I’m still not sure exactly what they are. Can you explain?
A: It’s no wonder you’ve heard of them: Dental implants have been called the most exciting advance in dentistry in the last 50 years! Essentially, the implant itself is a small, screw-shaped post that is placed in the jaw bone (underneath the gums), and serves as a replacement for the tooth’s roots. It is attached to a lifelike crown (a replacement for the visible part of the tooth) via a sturdy connector called an abutment. Dental implants offer results that can last a lifetime, and have the highest documented success rate of any tooth replacement system — over 95%.
Q: How does a dental implant work?
A: A few decades ago, it was discovered that titanium metal has a unique property: It can actually become fused to living bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. Implants are made of titanium, and take advantage of this feature. Solidly anchored in place by both osseointegration and mechanical forces, dental implants provide a strong and durable base for several different kinds of natural-looking and fully functional replacement teeth.
Q: What are dental implants used for?
A: One dental implant can be used to replace just one missing tooth with a crown that matches your own teeth. Two or more dental implants can be used to support a fixed bridge (a series of three or more replacement teeth) without requiring any work to be done on the adjacent, healthy teeth. Four or more implants can support an entire arch (complete top or bottom set) of replacement teeth that won’t slip and will never need to be removed — a great alternative to traditional removable dentures! Implants can also be used to support some kinds of removable dentures, and in certain orthodontic procedures.
Q: What is the procedure for getting a dental implant?
A: The implant process begins with a consultation, a thorough exam, and a set of diagnostic images. Placing one or more implants involves minor surgery, which is typically performed in the dental office and requires only local anesthesia. After the area has been numbed, a small opening is made in the tissue of gums and jaw bone, and the implant is carefully inserted. In some situations, a temporary replacement tooth may be placed on the implant immediately; otherwise, the implant will be allowed to rest for a period of weeks. In either case, the permanent replacement teeth will be secured to the implants at a subsequent visit.
Q: What are the advantages of an implant over other tooth replacement methods?
A: We already mentioned the high success rate and the long life of dental implants. Another advantage is the fact that implants stop the deterioration of bone in the jaw that inevitably follows tooth loss. Bone loss, a “hidden” consequence of tooth loss, is what tends to make people who are missing teeth look older than they really are. Implants need no special care beyond what you would give your natural teeth, and their longevity can make them a cost-effective investment in the long term. Plus, they look, function and “feel” just like your natural teeth.
If you’d like to find out more about dental implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also read the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants” and “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
At one time people who had lost all their teeth faced a grim future. With no feasible alternative, their tooth loss severely limited their ability to eat or speak. Their appearance suffered too, not only from the missing teeth but from bone loss in their facial structure.
We’ve come a long way since then — today, it’s possible to restore complete tooth loss with a permanent set of implant-supported teeth. Unlike other options like removable dentures, implantation can stop and even reverse bone loss caused by missing teeth. And because it now only takes a few strategically-placed implants to support an entire fixed bridge of teeth, the implant option is more affordable than ever.
In essence, implants are tooth root replacement systems. The titanium post that is surgically placed within the jawbone is osseophilic (“bone-loving”), which means bone will grow and adhere to it in a few weeks to further secure it in place. A dental restoration — a single crown (the visible portion of the tooth) or an entire bridge or arch — is then cemented or screwed to the implant.
While dental implants for single teeth normally require full bone integration before the permanent crown is set, it’s often possible for an implant-supported bridge of many teeth to be set at the same time as implantation. The bridge is attached to four or more implants that support the bridge like the legs of a stool; the teeth within the bridge also act to support each other. Both of these factors help to evenly distribute the biting force, which reduces the risk of crown failure before complete bone integration. You would still need to limit yourself to a soft food diet for 6-8 weeks while the bone integration takes place, but the procedure is essentially completed when you leave the dentist’s office.
As marvelous as the possibilities are with implant restorations, it still requires a great deal of planning and artistry from a team of dental professionals to realize a successful outcome. But working together, you and your team can achieve what wasn’t possible even a few years ago: a complete set of life-like, fully functional implant-supported teeth — and a new smile to boot!
If you would like more information on implant-supported teeth, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “New Teeth in One Day.”
One of the great benefits that patients with implants enjoy is their imperviousness to decay: unlike a natural tooth, bacteria have no effect on the materials in an implant’s construction. That doesn’t mean, however, you can become lax in your hygiene habits — although the implants may not be susceptible to disease, the surrounding gum tissue and bone are. If those tissues become infected you could start to lose the implant attachment and, as it progresses, the implant itself.
In fact, the gum tissue that surrounds the implant may be more susceptible to infection than those around natural teeth. Teeth maintain a connection with the jawbone through the periodontal ligament. Besides securing the tooth, the gum tissue has fibrous attachments to the tooth to help the gum tissue endure a lot of wear and tear and resist the invasion of bacteria and food particles. Implants are anchored directly into the jawbone (where bone eventually grows and attaches to the titanium implant surface) and don’t develop an attachment with the ligament. Implants, therefore, don’t have the benefit of resistance to bacteria and food particles that natural teeth receive through these fibrous attachments.
As a result, patients with implants need to establish a conscientious habit of effective oral hygiene. Daily removal of bacterial plaque from teeth surfaces through brushing and flossing (and semi-annual office cleanings and checkups) greatly reduce the risk of infection and subsequent inflammation. It’s also important to monitor the condition of your gums, especially around implants. If you begin to notice bleeding, red or swollen gums, or other signs of possible gum disease, you should contact us as soon as possible for an assessment.
Proper care for implants and their supporting tissues is just as necessary, and perhaps more so, than it is for natural teeth. By providing that care, you’ll help ensure years of effective service from your implants.
If you would like more information on hygiene practices with implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Infections Around Implants.”
Dental implants have quickly become the restoration of choice for two basic reasons: they effectively restore the lost function of missing teeth and simultaneously rejuvenate the smile with their life-like appearance.
Achieving a life-like appearance, however, isn’t always a simple matter. A restoration in what we dentists call the “Smile Zone” (the upper front area that displays both teeth and the gum line when you smile) requires careful planning and technique to ensure they appear as life-like as possible.
Our first concern is whether there’s enough bone to fully anchor an implant. Bone is a living, dynamic tissue that goes through cycles of dissolving (resorption) and growth. The normal forces of biting and chewing transmit through healthy teeth and stimulate growth in the bone. When the teeth are missing and no longer transmit this pressure, the bone will eventually resorb only and not grow.
Adjacent teeth could also be affected with bone loss if the extraction was difficult and a bone graft was not placed into the extraction socket to preserve bone. This not only puts adjacent teeth at risk of gum and bone loss but can also have implications for the final smile appearance. This bone also supports the triangular tissue between teeth known as papillae which give teeth their arched appearance. If the bone isn’t adequate, there’s less hope that the papillae will regenerate.
With these concerns it’s very important to consider how the implant and crown emerges from the gums in the Smile Zone. Recent developments in implant design are helping in this regard. The design change of the top of the implant re-orients the gum tissues in relation to the implant from vertical to horizontal, which dentists call “platform switching.” This provides greater stabilization where bone mass is limited, and helps create a more aesthetically pleasing result. There are also other techniques, such as surgical tissue grafting of the papillae that can further enhance the final appearance.
Although creating a natural, life-like appearance in the Smile Zone is difficult, it’s not impossible. It’s important first to undergo a complete dental examination and profile, where we can advise you on your best options to achieve a beautiful smile.
If you would like more information on the relation of implants to the aesthetics of your smile, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Implant Aesthetics.”
Dental implants are one of the best tooth replacement systems available. But while they can rejuvenate patients’ smiles and potentially provide a lifetime of service, they require thorough planning and preparation before the implant is inserted.
The process begins with the assembling of your treatment team. Implants require the training and expertise of a number of professionals who collaborate during the process: a dental specialist, like an oral surgeon, periodontist or a general dentist trained in implant dentistry, who surgically installs the implant; a dental technician who fashions the permanent life-like crown that will attach to your particular implant; and a restorative dentist who begins and ends the process with you — from initial consultation and planning to the permanent crown attachment. You, the patient, are also part of the team — your input and informed choices are essential to a successful outcome.
Your restorative dentist will take the first steps to develop your treatment plan. It begins with both a dental examination and a general health assessment to determine your fitness for any surgery. The dental examination serves to evaluate the site where the proposed implant or implants will be placed, along with x-rays for assessing the quantity and quality of bone at the site. Next, the dentist will create study models of your mouth to assess bite, and possibly take photographs to guide decisions on the implant crown’s color and appearance. The last step may be the development of surgical guides to ensure accurate placement of the implants by the surgeon.
One of the biggest questions to answer at this stage is whether or not you have sufficient bone mass to support the implant. You may have experienced significant bone loss due to disease or from resorption (the dissolving of bone) because of tooth loss. Insufficient bone mass can be remedied with a bone graft placed within the site that stimulates bone growth, which if successful will provide enough bone to support the implant.
While this preparatory phase before implant placement can be very involved, it’s absolutely necessary for ultimate success. The careful planning and prep work performed by your implant team — and your own participation in the process — will ensure that you’ll be happy with your new implants and your new smile.
If you would like more information on dental implant options, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implants.”