What are dental implants?
Dental implants are replacement tooth roots that are anchored into the jawbone in order to secure and provide a foundation for replacement teeth. Implants look and feel like your own teeth, and they become permanent because they are designed to fuse with bone. Dental implants require the same care as reel teeth.
Dental implants as we know them today were invented in 1952 by a Swedish orthopedic surgeon named Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Today, they are considered the standard of care for replacement of missing teeth. A dental implant is a surgical fixture that is placed into the jawbone and allowed to fuse with the bone over the span of a few months. The dental implant acts as a replacement for the root of a missing tooth and holds a replacement tooth or bridge. Having a dental implant fused to the jawbone is the closest thing to mimicking a natural tooth because it stands on its own without affecting the nearby teeth and has great stability. The process of fusion between the dental implant and jawbone is called “osseointegration.” Most dental implants are made of titanium, which allows them to integrate with bone without being recognized as a foreign object in our body. Over time, technology and science have progressed to greatly improve the outcomes of dental implant placement. Today, the success rate for dental implants is close to 98%.
When would someone need a dental implant?
Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or all of the teeth. The goal of teeth replacement is to restore function as well as esthetics.
When it comes to tooth replacement, generally, there are three options: (1) removable dental appliance (full denture or partial denture), (2) fixed dental bridge (cemented), and (3) dental implant. Deciding on which option to choose depends on many factors. Specifically for dental implants, these factors include:
- location of missing tooth or teeth,
- quantity and quality of the jawbone where the dental implant is to be placed,
- health of the patient,
- patient preference.
A dental surgeon examines the area to be considered for the dental implant and makes a clinical assessment of whether the patient is a good candidate for a dental implant.
There are great advantages to choosing a dental implant for tooth replacement over the other options. Dental implants are conservative in that missing teeth can be replaced without affecting or altering the adjacent teeth. Furthermore, because dental implants integrate into the bone structure, they are very stable and can have the look and feel of one’s own teeth.
What are the different types of dental implants? What are the different uses for implants?
Historically, there have been two different types of dental implants: (1) endosteal and (2) subperiosteal.
Endosteal refers to an implant that is “in the bone,” and subperiosteal refers to an implant that rests on top of the jawbone under the gum tissue.
Subperiosteal implants are no longer in use today because of their poor long-term results in comparison to endosteal dental implants.
While the primary function of dental implants is for teeth replacement, there are areas in which implants can assist in other dental procedures. Due to their stability, dental implants can be used to support a removable denture and provide a more secure and comfortable fit.
In addition, for orthodontics procedures, dental mini-implants can act as temporary anchorage devices (TADs) to help move teeth to a desired position. These mini-implants are small and temporarily fixed to bone while assisting in anchorage for teeth movement. They are subsequently removed after their function has been served.
Will someone feel pain when getting a dental implant?
Dental implant surgery is usually performed under local anesthetic, and therefore, no pain should be felt during the procedure. After the local anesthetic has worn off, the post-surgery discomfort will vary with each individual case. However, in general, most people will feel discomfort similar to a tooth extraction afterward. This pain typically can be managed with over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen (Advil) or acetaminophen (Tylenol). More invasive surgery may require a stronger prescription pain medication.
What is the procedure for getting a dental implant?
During the consult and planning stage, the dental surgeon will visually examine the site in the mouth where a dental implant is being considered as well as look at dental imaging studies (X-rays and CT scans). At this time, the quality and quantity of jawbone is assessed to determine if more bone is needed at the site. Once it has been established that a dental implant can be placed in the desired location, the patient will return for surgical procedures for the dental implant. During all surgical procedure appointments, the patient is usually given local anesthetic to numb the surgical area as well as any other sedatives necessary for comfort and anxiety.
The first stage of oral surgery often involves a tooth or teeth extraction. Oftentimes, the site of a dental implant still has an existing damaged tooth present. In order to prepare for placement of a dental implant, the tooth will need to be extracted. More often than not, an “alveolar bone graft” (cadaver or synthetic bone) is placed to achieve a solid base of bone for the implant. This site will be allowed to heal for two to six months. For an existing site that has no tooth but inadequate jawbone available, it will require a different bone graft that is placed on top of existing jawbone (“onlay bone graft”). This procedure is more involved and usually requires about six or more months of healing.
In some instances, when enough bone is present, the damaged tooth can be extracted followed by the implant placement procedure at the same appointment. This procedure is called “immediate implant” placement.
In the situation where an implant is to be placed in the maxilla (upper jaw) in the back or posterior region, sometimes the available amount of bone may be limited by the presence of the maxillary sinus (air-filled space found in the bones of the face). “Sinus augmentation” or “sinus lift” is performed to raise the sinus floor and graft more bone into the sinus. This will make more bone available to support a dental implant.
Once adequate, strong bone is present, the site is ready for the implant. At the implant placement appointment, the dental implant (titanium post) is placed into the bone with a special drill and tools. A “healing cap” is placed over the implant, the gum is stitched up, and the healing phase begins.
During this healing phase, a temporary denture can be made to replace missing teeth for esthetic purposes. Healing time depends greatly on the quality of bone present. Healing time is usually anywhere from two to six months. During this time, osseointegration should be taking place. Care must be taken to avoid placing any force or stress on the dental implant as it heals. Follow-up appointments to check the surgical site are typically done to ensure that no infection exists and healing is taking place.
After the required healing period, the dental implant is tested to determine whether osseointegration was successful. Once this has been confirmed, a prosthetic component is connected to the dental implant via a screw. This component is called an “abutment.” It will serve to hold the replacement tooth or “crown.” The dentist will take an impression (mold) of this abutment in the mouth and have the implant crown custom-made to fit. The implant crown is either cemented on or secured with a screw to the abutment.
Dental insurance typically does not pay for dental implant placement. Some dental insurances may help pay for the implant crown portion. Unfortunately, in many cases, dental insurance considers dental implants an elective procedure even though dental implants have become the standard of care for replacement of missing teeth. Dental implants have become a favored option for tooth replacement because they offer a conservative approach and provide predictable results with success rates close to 98%.
What are the potential risks and complications with a dental implant?
With any surgery, there are always some risks and potential complications to the patient or to the success of a dental implant. Careful planning is important to ensure that a patient is healthy enough to undergo oral surgery and heal properly. Just like any oral surgery procedure, bleeding disorders, infections, allergies, existing medical conditions, and medications need careful review prior to proceeding with treatment. Fortunately, the success rate is quite high and failures usually occur in the unlikely event of infection, fracture of the dental implant, overloading of the dental implant, damage to the surrounding area (nerves, blood vessels, teeth), poor positioning of the dental implant, or poor bone quantity or quality. Again, careful planning with a qualified surgeon can help avoid these issues. In many cases, another attempt can be made to replace a failed dental implant after the requisite time for healing has taken place.
What follow-up care is necessary after getting a dental implant?
Dental implants have the risk of developing a condition called “peri-implantitis.” This refers to inflammation of the gum and bone surrounding the implant. The inflammation of the surrounding tissues is often due to excessive biting forces on the implant or bacterial infection. Peri-implantitis can result in the loss of an implant if left untreated. After getting a dental implant, routine maintenance care at home and follow-up at the dental office are essential in avoiding this condition. Home care involves routine brushing and flossing to keep food debris and plaque from sitting around the dental implant. In the dental office, the surrounding soft and hard tissues are examined and special tools are used to remove harder calcified deposits around the dental implant. If necessary, the bite is adjusted to ensure that the implant does not sustain heavy biting forces.
*Information provided courtesy of MedicineNet.com.