Twenty years ago, if you were missing teeth, you had no choice but to get a fixed bridge or a removable denture. Each of these solutions came with their own set of problems: dentures can slip and make it difficult to chew and fixed bridges often have an adverse effect on adjacent healthy teeth.
However, dental implants now make it possible to safely replace teeth with a solid support for your new teeth.
How Dental Implants Started
Like many brilliant discoveries, dental implants happened by accident. In 1952, an orthopedic surgeon noted that he could not remove a small, expensive titanium cylinder he had placed in a rabbit’s bone to study how bone healed and regenerated. Soon the titanium fused to the bone, which is the biological basis of modern implants’ success.
Modern dental implants have been in use since the 1970s. Since that time they have undergone major improvements in design, but always with a variation on the same theme. Originally the technology was a “one size fits all” solution, with no variance for width allowed. The original surfaces of the implants were machined smooth and polished.
Today, implants come in a variety of shapes and sizes to suit all the different configurations of teeth they replace. Instead of being smooth or machined, they are generally roughened by sandblasting and acid etching, which dramatically increases the surface area to which bone can attach.
What Is a Dental Implant?
According to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, 69% of adults ages 35 to 44 have lost at least one permanent tooth to an accident, gum disease, a failed root canal or tooth decay. Additionally, by age 74, 26% of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth.
A dental implant is an ideal solution to replace damaged or missing teeth with an artificial crown that looks and functions much like your real teeth. A dental implant generally consists of three parts: the titanium implant that fuses with the jawbone; the abutment, which fits over the portion of the implant that protrudes from the gum line; and the crown. There are generally two types of implants: standard dental implants and mini dental implants, which differ by diameter. Mini dental implants are generally less expensive, and are the preferred choice for many dental patients.
Because the titanium in the implants fuses with your jawbone, the implants won’t slip, make noise or cause bone damage the way fixed bridgework or dentures might. And the materials can’t decay like your own teeth that support regular bridgework can.
How dental implant surgery is performed depends on the type of implant and the condition of your jawbone. But all dental implant surgery occurs in stages and may involve several procedures.
The success of dental implant surgery is 98%; therefore, they can last a lifetime unlike bridges and dentures that generally last 7 to 15 years.
Preparing For an Implant
Before the surgery, your dentist will conduct a thorough examination, take dental x-rays and make an impression of your teeth. Depending on the condition of your face, jaw and bone, a team of specialists may need to accompany your dentist, including an oral or maxillofacial surgeon. Make sure to talk to your dentist about any medications you are taking, particularly for diabetes and blood pressure. If you have certain heart conditions or orthopedic implants, your doctor may prescribe antibiotics before surgery to help prevent infection.
Implant surgery can be performed under general anesthesia, local anesthesia, sedation therapy, or just a local numbing agent such as novocaine.
What The Surgery Entails
First, if you have a tooth that is damaged it will need to be removed. Next, your dentist will cut through your gum to expose the bone. Holes are drilled into the bone where the titanium metal post will be placed into the socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw. The healing process can take from 6 to 12 weeks.
Once the implant has bonded to the jawbone, a small connector post — called an abutment — is attached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. A replacement tooth, called a crown, is then attached to the abutment.
Although there are dentists that provide same day implants, the procedure generally takes three to nine months to complete due to the healing time needed as you wait for the growth of the new bone in your jaw.
What Are The Advantages of Implants?
1. They are permanent so there is no need for messy adhesives to keep them in place.
2. They look and feel like natural teeth.
3. They can dramatically improve your appearance and self-esteem since your face is not sagging.
4. There are no restricted foods.
5. They lead to good oral hygiene. Because your nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health. Additionally, unlike bridges there is easier access between the teeth.
6. Dental implants will preserve bone and significantly reduce bone resorption and deterioration that results in loss of jawbone height.
Disadvantages of Dental Implants
1. Most insurance companies do not cover dental implants and they can be expensive.
2. Like any surgery, dental implant surgery has risks including infection, sinus problems and potential nerve damage.
3. Because a period of healing is necessary, you might have to go without teeth
4. Lacking in shock absorbency between the implants and bone, porcelain crowns can fracture.
Dental implants are far superior to either a fixed bridge or dentures. Getting a bridge may require the cutting down of healthy, adjacent teeth that may or may not need to be restored in the future. Then during the course of your lifetime, the bridge will probably have to be replaced. Dentures are not a great alternative either, because dentures may contribute to the loss of bone in the area where teeth are missing. If you have multiple teeth missing, you can also have multiple implants placed that are permanently rooted to your jaw. There will be no need for dentures that can slip, fall and need constant adjustments as you get older.
The beauty of dentures is that virtually every one is a candidate except for children whose jaw is still growing. Young or old, whether you are missing one tooth or all your teeth, there is a dental implant solution ideal for you.
About The Author
Dr. Oleg Klempner and his staff at Park Dental Brooklyn have served the greater New York area for more than 20 years and are dedicated to providing a superior dental experience. In addition to general dentistry services, such as routine cleaning, fillings, root canals, and more, Park Dental Brooklyn provides numerous cosmetic procedures, including veneers, inlays and onlays, whitening, and Invisalign, among others. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call 718.573.3333 or visit www.parkdentalbk.com