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Home > Dental Treatments > Dental Implants > A Practical Guide to Dental Implants
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A Practical Guide to Dental Implants


Thinking about getting dental implants? Here's what you should know:

Who Needs Dental Implants

A permanent solution for missing teeth.

Twenty years ago, most people with missing teeth had them replaced using fixed or removable bridgework. Dental bridges work well in many cases, and can still sometimes be the first choice. However, with implant therapy available today, more people are choosing to replace loose teeth with implants.

Dental implants, which are metal structures used to replace missing roots in the jaws, have been available for many years. Egyptian skeletal remains thousands of years old have been found with gold-screw type implants in the jaw. In the U.S.A., prior to the 1980's, available implant technologies gave unpredictable results. Then Dr. Brånemark, an orthopedist from Sweden, introduced and marketed a very predictable type of implant. These implants were shaped like the roots of teeth and were made of titanium, a metal used successfully in orthopedic surgery. This type of implant forms a close physical bond with the bone in a process called "osseointegration." Since then, numerous researchers and companies have developed dental implants patterned after Dr. Brånemark's original designs. Today's implants are simple to use and successful in most cases. The outcome has more to do with the skill and experience of the dentists than the manufacturer or type of implant.

Candidates for Dental Implants

Implants are used to replace missing teeth, but not all patients are good candidates. It takes a trained dentist, periodontist or oral surgeon to determine if implants are suitable for a patient. First, X-rays are used to determine if the missing tooth area has enough remaining bone to hold an implant. If bone is inadequate, augmentation surgery can sometimes generate enough bone to place implants. In addition to bone quantity, the quality of bone is also important. Dense, hard bone is better than soft, porous bone. Bone quantity and quality vary between patients, and between areas of the jaws.

Age of the patient is not a major factor as long as the person is in good health. Diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes would compromise implants. Although smoking reduces the success rate of implants, they are often still successful in smokers. Periodontitis, or gum disease, around natural teeth could affect implants. Periodontitis of the teeth should be treated to avoid loss of teeth and implants.

Indications for Implants

Many people lose back teeth (molars) and are faced with the possibility of wearing a removable partial denture to replace them. Partials are hard to get used to: they move when chewing, tend to pack food and retain plaque, and loosen the teeth they clasp to. One of the best uses of implants is to eliminate the partial denture. If a number of implants can be placed, usually they can support a comfortable, non-removable dental restoration.

In cases where there are one or two missing teeth in a row, the dentist may be able to place a fixed tooth bridge. This is where the teeth adjacent to the spaces are drilled down to receive dental crowns that are part of the bridge, which is cemented in. If these adjacent teeth have never been restored or crowned previously, it would be desirable not to drill them down. If implants can be placed where the teeth are missing, the area can be restored with a non-removable restoration while avoiding crowns on the natural teeth.

Many people who wear full dentures (plates) have difficulty with eating and phonetics. Often dentures move around during function. In many of these cases, implants can greatly improve the quality of life. Treatment could vary from placement of two implants under the denture for secure fastening to placement of several implants with non-removable restorations.

How Implants Feel

As a periodontist and implant surgeon, one of my greatest sources of satisfaction is people's reactions to implants. We constantly hear comments like, "They feel just like my teeth," "I wish I'd gotten them sooner," and "I can eat anything now." Of course, implants require some minor oral surgery, which is normally performed using local anesthesia. There is no pain during the procedure. Post-operative pain is minimal and usually well controlled with prescription pain medication.

The implant restoration usually consists of porcelain fused to metal crowns, which look and feel like natural teeth. Sometimes implants are restored with attachments to partial or full dentures.

How to Get Implants

First, see your dentist, periodontal surgeon, or oral surgeon for a consultation. It takes a surgeon (periodontist or oral surgeon) to place the implants and a restorative dentist (general dentist or prosthodontist) to make the restorations for the implants. Usually, the surgeon takes X-rays and will consult your restorative dentist about where implants can be placed, their sizes, and how many are needed. They will advise you about your particular case, sequence and fees.

If tooth extractions are needed, these areas will usually require some months of healing before implants can be placed. Sometimes implants can be placed at the time of extraction. Once implants are placed, three to six months of healing are needed for osseointegration. When the surgeon determines that the implants are ready to restore, "abutments" are attached to the implants. Abutments serve to connect the implants in the bone to the restoration in the mouth. Then the restoring dentist fabricates and attaches the restoration to the implants. Depending on the situation, the whole process can take from three months to over a year. In most cases, the dentist provides a temporary restoration for this period.

In summary, dental implants offer a superior method for tooth replacement in many individuals. Implants are predictable as well as highly successful, and improve the quality of life with better chewing function and aesthetics.

Want a great dentist who can help you with all of your dental implant needs? Call us at 1-866-970-0441 today.

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