WHAT ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Today, after 50 years of research and more than 20 years of successful implant placements, dental implants are frequently the best treatment option for replacing missing teeth. In the United States alone, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons place more than 500,000 dental implants every year; and the number is growing exponentially as patients learn about the many benefits of this long-lasting tooth replacement option.
DENTAL IMPLANTS - WHAT THEY ARE AND HOW THEY WORK
Dental implants are used to anchor a single tooth, several teeth or a mouthful of teeth. As the accompanying illustration shows, the typical dental implant for the replacement of a single tooth consists of three separate pieces; each fulfilling a unique role in the process. The actual implant is usually a titanium post that The Huntington Group surgically places in the jaw bone. Over the next two to six months, the implant will safely fuse with the jaw bone to form a secure, immovable base upon which the two other components, the abutment and the prosthesis or crown, will be placed. The abutment attaches to the portion of the implant that sits above the gumline. It forms a platform for the crown, which is carefullly molded and positioned on the abutment by a restorative dentist.
In general, the crown is not added until the implant and jaw bone have fused. There are some cases, particularly in situations where there is an aesthetic concern, when a temporoary crown may be placed on the abutment at the time of surgery. One of our surgeons can tell you if this procedure is right for you.
ALL FOR ONE AND ONE FOR ALL
If you are replacing several teeth in the same area or a mouthful of teeth, your Huntington Group surgeon may place two or more implants to securely anchor a fixed or removable prosthesis. These prostheses anchor to the implants to form a stable, immovable bond that allows the patient to speak clearly, eat heartily and smile freely -- just as if he or she had natural teeth.
WHO NEEDS IMPLANTS?
With the general exception of growing children, dental implants can improve the quality of life for almost everyone who is missing one or more teeth. People of all ages can benefit from dental implants.
The Huntington Group has successfully treated many patients in their 80s and 90s with dental implants. Additionally, individuals with existing medical conditions or other health concerns, including the following, are generally good candidates for implants.
Medical Conditions -- If you can have routine dental treatment, you can usually have an implant placed. While precautions are advisable for certain conditions, even patients with such chronic illnesses as high blood pressure and diabetes are generally successful candidates for implant treatment.
Gum Disease or Problem Teeth -- Almost all implants have been placed with high success rates in patients who have lost their teeth to periodontal (gum) disease or decay.
Currently Wearing Partials or Dentures -- Dental implants can replace fixed bridges or removable dentures, or they can be used to stabilize and secure removable dentures, making them much more comfortable.
Smokers -- Although smoking lowers the success rate of implants, it doesn't eliminate the possibility of getting them.
Bone Loss -- Bone loss is not uncommon for people who have lost teeth or had periodontal disease. Surgeons of The Huntington Group are trained and experienced in grafting bone to safely and securely place the dental implant.
Implant tooth replacement in children is usually deferred because their jaw bones are still growing and the implant, a fixed entity, will not grow with the bone. There are exceptions, however, and some children, such as those undergoing orthodontic procedures, may be candidates for dental implants. Your family dentist or orthodontist will help you determine whether dental implants are right for your child.
BENEFITS OF DENTAL IMPLANTS
If you are unfamiliar with dental implants or maybe thought they were similar to traditional fixed bridges and removable dentures, you may be surprised by their unique quality of life benefits. Dental implants look, feel and perform like your healthy, natural teeth. They help protect your oral health by reducing the bone loss that often accompanies the use of conventional dentures that rest on the gum line. Dental implants enable you to eat and enjoy the foods you crave without restriction and allow you to speak clearly and confidently without embarrassing clicking noises or slipping dentures.
Implants Aid in the Prevention of Bone Loss -- The density of the jaw bone is preserved and maintained by the presence of your natural teeth. When one or more teeth are lost through gum disease, tooth decay, an accident or other incident, the bone thins and weakens over time. In the area of the missing teeth, both fixed bridges and removable dentures rest on top of the gum line and do nothing to maintain or preserve the jaw bone. As bone loss occurs, the fixed bridge or removable denture no longer fits properly. Patients with fixed bridges may encounter hygiene problems commonly associated with these prostheses, while patients with removable dentures may be bothered by clicking noises and slipping dentures. Dental implants, however, are placed in and fuse with the jaw bone to form a long lasting bond that maintains and preserves bone density in the same manner as healthy, natural teeth.
Avoids Injury to Adjacent Teeth -- Until the advent of dental implants, a fixed bridge was the conventional solution for replacing a single missing tooth. Unfortunately, a fixed bridge designed to replace one tooth actually impacts three teeth; the tooth being replaced and the teeth on either side, which are used to anchor the bridge. These adjacent teeth must be cut down so the bridge may be securely cemented. Because the dental implant is fused with the jaw bone, it is a free-standing restoration and the need to disturb the adjacent teeth is avoided.
Lifestyle Benefits -- Insecure fit, difficulty eating favorite foods and an artificial appearance often cause patients who wear removable dentures or fixed bridges to complain that the appliances make them look and feel older than their actual age. By contrast, natural looking, long-lasting dental implants are usually indistinguishable from natural teeth and provide patients with more self-assurance and confidence.
Removable Partial Denture. A removable partial denture may contribute to the loss of adjacent teeth and the loss of bone density. Studies show that within five to seven years, there is a failure rate of about 30% in teeth located next to a removable partial denture. As with fixed bridges, removal partial dentures need to be replaced every 7 to 15 years.
Dental Implants. Of all the options open to the patient, dental implants are frequently the best treatment option and the solution of choice for replacing missing teeth. Implants do not impact adjacent teeth or lead to bone loss. In general, dental implants seldom need replacement once they have fused with the bone.
THE DENTAL IMPLANT PROCEDURE IS A TEAM EFFORT
The dental implant procedure is a team effort that includes the patient; the oral and maxillofacial surgeon, who surgically places the implant; and the restorative dentist, who creates and places the crown after the site has healed and coordinates the various aspects of the procedure.
Generally, the patient has several options:
Do nothing. This is the poorest choice as teeth behind a missing or opposite tooth may eventually drift into the unfilled space and periodontal disease may develop. Over time there may be bone loss in the area of the missing tooth.
Fixed bridge. A fixed bridge may require the cutting down of adjacent, healthy teeth that may or may not need to be restored in the future. Bone loss and recurrent decay may occur under the fixed bridge since there is no actual tooth in place to maintain the area. Further, there may be future costs to replace the bridge once, twice or more often during the patient's lifetime. In general, a fixed bridge must be replaced very 7 to 15 years.
When the decision to go with dental implants has been made, the implant team is organized and the dental implant process begins.
A thorough oral examination and medical consultation by the dental team responsible for implant treatment is necessary to ensure that you are a candidate for dental implants. During the examination, you will be asked for a complete medical history. Be sure to give complete information, including any health problems, and allergies or medications you are taking. Your examination may include several x-rays and other diagnositc tests, such as a CT scan, to provide essential information about the jaw bone and its anatomy, and to assist in the development of your dental implant plan. You a re a key member o gfhte team, and all aspects of your cases will be discussed with you before the procedure is scheduled.
While there is no guarantee of 100% success, with careful planning by your surgeon and restorative dentist prior to surgery, and proper self-maintenance, you can expect many years of use from your dental implants. In fact, current literature reports that the vast majority of implants placed 20 or more years ago are still in service, functioning normally. Thousands of people have rediscovered the joy of eating properly, speaking clearly and laughing comfortably through the use of dental implants.