Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. The implants themselves are tiny titanium posts that are placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth.
Dental implants are changing the way people live! With them, people are rediscovering the comfort and confidence to eat, speak, laugh and enjoy life.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Dental implants can be used in a variety of ways. In some instances they offer better solutions than conventional dental restorations. Implants are the only solution if removable or complete dentures are to be avoided.
Here are some of the ways dental implants can be used:
- Dental implants can replace a single missing tooth. In this case, using an implant would avoid drilling the adjacent teeth needed to support a permanently cemented bridge. This is often desirable when the abutment teeth do not have any fillings. The reason? Tooth enamel is precious. It can’t be replaced once it’s drilled.
- Another thing to consider is that as much as we’d wish otherwise, dental crowns and bridges do not last forever. They can chip or break, and decay can form under the margins, necessitating replacements. A single dental implant reduces the need for extra crowns and future dental work.
- Dental implants can replace a removable partial denture or make a removable partial denture more stable. Dental implants can replace a full upper or lower denture. Many people have enough bone remaining to have implants placed in their jaws. In the off-chance that there’s not enough bone, new techniques exist to regenerate the amount needed to successfully have implants. Dental implants can provide more retention for full or partial dentures. Instead of placing six, or more implants, two to five implants can be inserted for increased stability. When this happens, the final prosthesis will be more stable, giving a greater sense of security. Also, the prosthesis is often smaller than the one being replaced.
- Dental implants can be used in complex cases in order to avoid a denture while the patient still has some teeth left. These patients usually have existing bridges, and they are certainly not strangers to the dental chair. What usually happens is that a root canal has failed, or a key abutment tooth has cracked, or their periodontal condition has worsened. Any of these conditions could force a dentist to suggest that unless dental implants are placed in strategic areas, complete (removable) dentures will be needed. For most people, this step is too horrific to contemplate, let alone experience. But with the success of dental implants, complete (removable) dentures can be avoided with proper planning. These complex cases require careful planning and good communication between the general dentist, patient and Dr. Miller.
If I lost teeth due to periodontal disease, can I still have dental implants?
Definitely. Most patients present with adequate amounts of bone for dental implants. In some instances, however, more bone is needed before implants can be placed. There are predictable procedures to graft and regenerate the amount of bone needed for dental implants. Once sufficient amounts of new bone have been regenerated, enough dental implants can be placed to support a new dental prostheses.
But still, each mouth is different. How do you know I have enough bone for dental implants?
Dental x-rays and clinical exams help determine if enough bone exists to place the dental implants. Sometimes, in conjunction with a clinical examination, the dentist feels comfortable in proceeding with the placement of a dental implant. Often, though, more information is needed before making that determination.
Are there any dangers that I should be worried about, when having implants placed?
Yes. While implants are over 95% successful, the most important risks to be aware of are: infection, implant rejection, persistent numbness and pain.
What about infections from dental implant surgery?
Though rare, infections do occur. With regard to the dental literature, the verdict is not in as to whether every implant surgery should be covered with antibiotic therapy. In fact, the weight of evidence is against routine antibiotic coverage. However, the final decision in using antibiotics rests with each operator and their patients.
Can an implant be rejected?
Yes. Implants can be rejected, but not in the way we know “rejection” can occur in organ transplants, like with kidneys and hearts. We know dental implants are bio-compatible. There are no known allergic reactions to commercially-pure, titanium implants, which are the most prevalent kind used today. But failures do occur.
The failures we see in dental implants can be explained more in theory, than in fact. For instance, bacteria can contaminate implants. When this happens, an infection might cause the implant to be lost. Naturally, great efforts are taken to insure sterile conditions during implant procedures, from the way the implants are packaged to the hygienic conditions in the operating room.
Apart from the potential pitfalls, how long does it take for the implants to “work?” Though it can vary for specific reasons, the general rule of thumb is that implants healed in 2-3 months.
Augmenting the bone, performing sinus lifts, needing jaw reconstruction, etc., will lengthen healing periods. Remember, healing times are related to human biology. Healing can not be made to go any quicker than how we were intended to heal.
With all the things to worry about, how successful are implants?
Maybe this should have been the first question. But we feel strongly that the public should understand everything there is to know about implants. Implants placed by most periodontists and dental surgeons today, have a high degree of success. In fact, they are close to 95% successful. These percentage may vary slightly from surgeon to surgeon and among implant types, but as a rule, titanium implant dental fixtures are predictably successful.
When an implant fails, can another be placed in the same spot?
Usually, yes. We often don’t understand why an implant fails. When it does, the implant is removed. If conditions are right, the site is prepared for another dental implant. Sometimes this can be done at the time the implant is removed. Other times, the surgeon feels it is better to try again only after a prescribed healing period. Regardless of when an implant is placed in the site of a failure, it meets with a high degree of success.