Implant dentistry evolved from general dentists. In the 1940’s, a general dentist developed the concept for implants to replace a single tooth. Today, dental implants are very predictable and successful. The dental implant is clearly the best choice for tooth replacement in most situations. The single tooth implant exhibits the highest survival rates of any other option presented for single tooth replacement.
Dental implants are made of titanium and are surgically placed into the jawbone to replace the roots of missing teeth for the attachment of teeth or dentures. Through a process called “osseointegration”, the jawbone actually attaches itself to the implant over time, providing tremendous stability and natural function.
If a patient faces the loss of one or several teeth or is dissatisfied with dentures or other options available, the patient may find that dental implants are the right solution. Age is not typically a major factor; successful dental implants have been performed on young people as well as the elderly. A young person, however, should be finished growing before having an implant placed. During the patient’s initial consultation, the doctor or the staff can help in the decision process. In general, the following factors are evaluated: general health, oral health, sufficient underlying jawbone to support the implants, a good attitude to ensure proper follow-through, and good oral hygiene habits.
Implant treatment is usually performed by a general dentist, periodontist, oral surgeon, or a team of these doctors. The surgical procedure is often performed in the dental office using local anesthetic. Each implant is placed to serve as an anchor for the support of the teeth. Generally, about four months are allowed for the bone to grow around the implants and hold them securely in place. During this natural healing time, some situations may require that a temporary tooth replacement be made and worn by the patient. Once the jawbone has firmly healed around the implants, an impression is made and sent to a special dental laboratory for fabrication of the restorative parts that will fit into and over the implants. Once the labwork is completed, a small post called an abutment is attached to each implant. The post protrudes through the gum line and serves as an anchor for the attachment of teeth (crowns) or dentures. The final crowns, bridges or denture can then be affixed to the abutments. Denture patients especially appreciate the improved retention of their denture. With implants holding the denture in place, there is no fear of the denture becoming loose or falling out, and these patients can once again eat all those delicious foods that are difficult to chew.
Dental implant surgery has proved to be successful for hundreds of thousands of people over the years. The success rate of implant replacement teeth is highly variable, depending on a host of factors that vary for each patient. However, compared with traditional methods of tooth replacement like fixed bridges, removable partial and complete dentures, the implant replacement teeth offer increased longevity, improved function, bone preservation and better psychological results.
Today’s technology can replace the tooth with a dental implant which may replace a single tooth or a whole mouth of teeth, without crowning any natural teeth. As a consequence, the teeth are easier to clean and less likely to decay, and/or need root canal therapy. With proper oral hygiene habits – brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits – the dental implant will serve the patient well.