Since their development over 25 years ago, dental implants have revolutionized dentistry. Now, patients have a long-term solution to missing teeth that closely mimics nature’s design. By replacing the missing tooth root, as well as the tooth crown (portion above the gum line), a dental implant provides unrivaled support, comfort and longevity.
Benefits of dental implants:
- Permanent – Because they are integrated with the bone tissue, dental implants last most people a lifetime.
- Comfortable – Dental implants are designed to function and feel like natural teeth. You may even forget which tooth you lost.
- Functional – Unlike bridges, dental implants don’t require the reduction of healthy tooth structure. More of your natural teeth are left intact, which improves your chances of lont-term oral health.
- Reliable – In general, implants have a success rate of over 95%.
- Convenient – No messy adhesives and the inconvenience of removable prosthetics.
When someone loses a permanent tooth they are not simply losing a tool meant for chewing; they are losing a strengthening agent for their jaw, and an important player in the alignment of their teeth. Tooth alignment determines how we chew and this in turn impacts the muscles and bones of our jaw, neck and head. A missing tooth can start a chain reaction which leads to head and neck aches, shifting teeth and an alteration to the diet.
All of these reasons are what prompt dentists to recommend tooth replacement. This can be achieved through a variety of methods, including bridges, dentures, partials, and implants. Of all the choices, dental implants are the only method of adding strength and stability to the jaw by replacing the missing roots as well as the missing tooth. Teeth are composed of three distinct regions – the hard outer shell called the enamel, the softer inner tissue called the dentin and the innermost pulp of a tooth which contains blood and lymph vessels as well as nerves and which usually rests in the roots of the teeth. The roots of the teeth are embedded in the jaw bone, and as long as the tooth is healthy, it supports and strengthens the surround bone. Dental implants are similar to normal teeth in that they have a “root” like region as well as crown that has the same function and appearance as the original dentin and enamel portion of the tooth. Implants vary in size, but all require the surgical implantation of an anchor into the jaw bone. Afterward a period of “osseointegration” must occur, which takes from three to six months, during which time the surrounding tissue connects to and accepts the anchor. If osseointegration fails, the process can be tried again, but in a different area of the bone.
Once the anchor is settled into place a temporary “crown” is set into the gum. This will allow the tissue to become familiar and receptive to the permanent crown. Once the permanent crown is bolted to the anchor the process is complete. Currently, dental statistics indicate a ninety five percent success rate for implants in the lower jaw and a ninety percent success rate for those in the upper jaw. While the explanation for this variation is undetermined, most dental experts agree that it has something to do with lower bone densities in the upper jaw areas which make successful osseointegration more difficult. Not everyone is a candidate for the procedure and only a properly trained dentist or oral surgeon will be able to make the final determination. Issues such as space and bone condition will affect the decision, and some dentists recommend an alternative treatment called a “mini implant” which is a significantly smaller anchor only partially submerged into the bone. These are used to replace smaller teeth, or for those who are in need of anchor teeth for their dentures or overdentures.
Those with implants will still be required to follow a regular plan for oral hygiene because the soft tissue of the gums and areas surrounding the implants are just as susceptible to bacteria and infection as natural teeth and gums.
Comprised of two parts, the titanium implant and tooth replacement, dental implants require phased treatment. In the first phase, the titanium portion of the implant is carefully inserted into the jaw bone. A process called osseointegration, in which the bone fuses to the implant, takes place over a short period of time, usually about three months. In the second phase, your dentist secures a custom-designed tooth replacement. An implant can secure a crown, bridge or partial.
While upper dentures typically remain stable, lower dentures can click and slip at the most inopportune times. With dental implants, your dentist can stabilize your lower denture, improving comfort, speech, eating, and confidence. Dental implants also stimulate the jaw bone and help prevent the bone deterioration that accompanies missing teeth.