Dental implants are dental devices that are used to replace the root portion of a missing tooth or teeth. These artificial root replacements can then be used to support natural looking teeth consisting of crowns, a bridge or a denture.
What are dental implants made of?
Dental implants are made of titanium, a biocompatible metal. Titanium does not cause a foreign body reaction and bone grows onto titanium as if it is native bone. This was accidentally discovered in the orthopedic studies many years ago when the researchers found that the titanium screws had fused to the bone while other types of metal screws did not.
How long do dental implants last?
Implants, just like teeth, can last a lifetime if surrounded by healthy bone and soft tissue and are kept clean with good oral hygiene and regular dental visits.
How are implants placed?
Implants are threaded into the jaw bone. The procedure can be performed with local anesthesia (Novocain or lidocaine). For patients with dental anxiety, we can use intravenous sedation as an adjunctive measure to make the patient more comfortable.
The implants are left undisturbed for three to six months allowing appropriate bony growth around the implant. This is termed osseointegration which means that the implants have been fused to the surrounding bone.
Once the healing is complete, your surgeon or restorative dentist will then select and place an abutment (a connector between the dental implant and the crown) onto which teeth can be attached.
What is bone grafting?
When teeth are lost, the bone which supports the teeth usually resorbs with time. This is most evident in older patients who have worn dentures for many years. They often have pencil thin jaw bones.
As mentioned before, the longevity of an implant is dependent on many factors including healthy bone and soft tissue. If there is only a small amount of bone secondary to bone loss, the patient will often require bone and soft tissue grafting in order to recreate a solid foundation into which the dental implants can be threaded.
Bone grafting means taking bone from a donor site (jaw bone or knee or hip) and placing it into the recipient (implant) site. Bone grows back at the donor site and the recipient site receives an additional bulk of bone into which implants can be placed at a later date.
In certain situations, bone replacement material can be used, thus eliminating the need for donor site procedure.
What is soft tissue grafting?
At the time of implant placement, you may require soft tissue grafting in order to enhance the esthetic result of your implant. Thin gum around the implant can often give a dark line around your crown which can look unappealing. Thicker gum from your palate can be transferred to your implant site. This can not only improve the appearance but also allow healthier gum around the implant. Food trapping can be improved as well.
What are immediate implants?
In certain situations, an implant can be placed into the tooth socket immediately after extraction. This eliminates the usual waiting period of 6-8 weeks after extraction. However, immediate implants are only appropriate at certain tooth sites with healthy bone and soft tissue. Your doctor will discuss this timing with you if you are a candidate.
Who should not receive implants?
If you have poorly controlled diabetes mellitus or a significant immunodeficiency or certain bony pathology, you may be a poor candidate for dental implants. You should meet with your doctor and thoroughly review your medical history. Implants are a significant financial and personal investment and you should be well informed of your benefits and risks.