A dental implant is a titanium based replacement for the root of a missing tooth.
An abutment is attached to the implant and a prosthetic crown or bridge is then attached to the abutment. In the past, dentists used root canals, bridges and fixed or removable dentures to solve many of the problems addressed by dental implants. Today, the permanence, convenience and cosmetic benefits of implants make them an increasingly attractive alternative to traditional procedures.
The advantages of dental implants can be summarized as follows:
- Appearance. Once they are created, dental implants look and feel like real teeth. In addition, they can slow or stop shrinkage of the jawbone, a process that ages the face and creates problems with missing teeth and/or bridges and dentures.
- Comfort. Dentures, because they are set on top of gums, often chafe and irritate. These problems are eliminated with implants.
- Improved Speech. Dentures frequently slip and slide around in the mouth, often causing speech defects.
- Increased Chewing Efficiency. While dentures reduce chewing efficiency by about 80%, dental implants can provide chewing efficiency comparable to that of natural teeth.
- Convenience. Implants do not require adhesives and eliminate the potential for embarrassment caused by removable dentures.
- Protection of Remaining Teeth. Dental implants do not require adjacent teeth to be modified so they can act as anchors for bridgework.
Dental implants are an appropriate solution in a variety of situations. These can be summarized as follows:
- In cases where a patient has lost 1-2 teeth, a dental implant is a desirable alternative to a traditional bridge because it does not require any reformation of adjacent teeth.
- In cases where the patient has lost several teeth and a dental bridge is required, dental implants can be used as additional structural support for the bridge. This in turn requires a smaller number of natural teeth to be reconfigured to form a foundation for the bridge.
- In the case where the patient is wearing a removable full denture, dental implants can provide additional support for the denture.
The process for obtaining dental implants has several steps. They can be summarized as follows:
- An X-ray examination of the teeth and jaw is conducted.
- An interdisciplinary team from three fields: Periodontics, Prosthodonitics and Implant Dentistry, and Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery are formed to create a suitable individual treatment plan for the patient.
- Where there is insufficient bone thickness, the bone in the questionable area may need to “thickened” before the implant is placed.
- Minor oral surgery is conducted to place the implant(s) into the mandible and/or jaw bone.
- After a 3-6 month period during which the bone grows and strengthens around the implant, the prosthetic part is attached to the implant.
- Home care instructions are given and follow-up treatments arranged.