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Dental Implants

A dental implant, a metal screw made from titanium, is an artificial “tooth” that is used to replace the missing / lost natural tooth. The screw is placed in the jaw bone (while the area is numb) and the bone grows tightly onto the surface of the implant (see x-ray). This, therefore, serves to create a new “tooth root”, which can then support the part of the tooth (crown) visible in the mouth…

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant, a metal screw made from titanium, is an artificial “tooth” that is used to replace the missing / lost natural tooth. The screw is placed in the jaw bone (while the area is numb) and the bone grows tightly onto the surface of the implant (see x-ray). This, therefore, serves to create a new “tooth root”, which can then support the part of the tooth (crown) visible in the mouth. Strong, durable and natural in appearance, implants are among the most successful dental procedures performed. Although there are a number of options to replace missing teeth, none have proven to be as functionally effective and durable as implants.

Dental Implants

Dental Implants

Tooth Loss

Teeth are lost because of:

  • Tooth decay (rotting tooth)
  • Root canal failure (leading to another tooth abscess)
  • Periodontitis (gum and bone disease)
  • Trauma to the mouth (e.g. motor vehicle accident)
  • Excessive wear and tear (such as found in nocturnal bruxers that grind their teeth during the night)

People who have lost some teeth might feel too self-conscious to smile or talk, especially if the missing tooth is in the smile. Additionally, trying to chew without the missing tooth might have negative effects on eating habits (diet) and this can lead to secondary health problems such as malnutrition.

Advantages of Implant Dentistry

Dental implants are stronger and more durable than their restorative counterparts (bridges and dentures). Implants offer a permanent solution to tooth loss. Additionally, implants may be used in conjunction with other restorative procedures for maximum effectiveness. For example, implants can also be used with dentures to increase stability and reduce gum tissue irritation.

Procedural advancements, including the development of narrower “mini” implants, mean that more people than ever before are finding themselves candidates for implantation. However, candidacy for implantation still varies, meaning that your dentist may determine that you should opt for an alternative restoration.

The Dental Implant Procedure

The implant placement takes place in the consulting rooms using the usual dental local anaesthetic. It is a painless procedure, which takes about 30 minutes per implant in cases where supplementary procedures (e.g. hard or soft tissue augmentation) are not required. Postoperative discomfort, in most cases, is minimal and can be managed effectively using routine pain medication.

Mostly, patients report for work the following day. It is important to discuss the details of your specific case with the implant surgeon.

Implants are typically placed in a single sitting but require a period of Osseo (bone) integration. Osseo integration is the process during which direct anchorage of a dental implant “root” and the bone in the jaw occurs. An implant takes anywhere from three to six months to anchor, at which point your dentist can complete the procedure with the placement of a crown on top of the implant. If Osseo integration does not occur, the implant will fail.

Success Rates of Dental Implants

Dental implants are among the most successful procedures in dentistry. There is no guarantee that an implant procedure will be successful, but studies have shown a five-year success rate of 95% for lower jaw implants and 90% for upper jaw implants. The success rate for upper jaw implants is slightly lower because the upper jaw (especially the posterior section) is less dense than the lower jaw, making successful implantation and Osseo integration potentially more difficult to achieve. Lower posterior implantation has the highest success rate for all dental implants.

Dental implants may fail for a number of reasons. The cause is often related to a failure in the Osseo integration process. For example, if the implant is placed in a poor position, Osseo integration may not take place. Dental implants may break or become infected (like natural teeth) and crowns may become loose.

If you are a smoker who is considering a dental implant, your dentist will likely advise you to give up smoking before undergoing the process because smokers face a higher risk of implant failure. Since the procedure can be extremely expensive, you risk wasting your money on dental implants if you do not give up the habit.

On the plus side, dental implants are not susceptible to the formation of cavities; still, poor oral hygiene can lead to the development of peri-implantitis around dental implants. This disease is tantamount to the development of periodontitis (severe gum disease) around a natural tooth.

Implant Dentistry: New Procedural Strategies

Dentists trained to perform implants, crowns and/or surgery have begun to use a new strategy for the replacement of missing teeth. Dental implants are placed into locations where teeth have recently been extracted. When successful, this new strategy can shed months off of the treatment time associated with dental implants because Osseo integration is sped up. Candidacy for this type of early intervention is dependant upon anatomical factors of the extracted tooth site. For example, in many cases the extracted tooth site is wider than the implant, making it impossible to place the implant into the site immediately after extraction. Dental work would have to be performed first in order to create a perfect fit for the implant.