As dental implants increase in popularity, the surgical procedures to install them are becoming quite commonplace. Still, many people are nervous about this procedure, perhaps not really knowing what to expect. So if you're considering dental implants, here's a rundown of what happens before, during and after the procedure.
Dental implants are actually a tooth root replacement system. A post made of titanium is inserted into the jaw bone at the site of the missing tooth. Because of titanium's bone-friendly molecular structure bone cells naturally gravitate to its surface; over time the inserted post and bone will fuse. After a few weeks of this process, the post will be ready for a porcelain crown, bridge or overdenture to be attached to it.
Before the implant surgery you will undergo a complete dental exam. Everything is planned out in advance so that we know the exact location along the jaw to place the implants. In many cases we create a surgical template that can be used during surgery to identify these precise locations.
The procedure itself is painless for most patients, requiring only a local anesthesia. The procedure begins with small incisions in the gum tissue to allow us to see the precise point in the bone for the implant. We then create a small hole in the bone, using a drilling sequence of successive larger holes until we've achieved the best fit for the implant (during drilling you may experience a mild vibration). We then remove the implants from their sterile packaging, place them immediately into the drilled hole, then stitch the gum tissue back into place.
After surgery, most patients encounter only a mild level of discomfort for a day or two. This can be managed by prescription doses of common pain relievers like aspirin or ibuprofen, although we will use surgical strength ibuprofen. Rarely do we need to prescribe something stronger.
Once the implant fuses permanently with the bone, we then affix the final crown or other dental device in a painless procedure. This final step will give you back not only the use of your teeth, but a more appealing smile as well.
If you would like more information about dental implant surgery, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Dental Implant Surgery.”
If you are one of the millions of Americans with missing teeth, then you're probably aware of some of the obvious side effects. You may feel self-conscious during conversations or simply avoid smiling altogether to conceal your dental issue. It is not uncommon for missing teeth to affect your confidence, but did you know that there are other problems that result from tooth loss?
For starters, if you have lost enough teeth, eating may become more difficult, in particular healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables. This is one of the main reasons that inadequate dental care frequently results in nutritional deficiency.
Another very serious issue that results from missing teeth is bone loss. We sometimes refer to this as a “hidden consequence,” because you may not actually see or feel this issue right away. Did you know that bone is actually living tissue that needs constant stimulation to maintain its form and density? Thus, when a tooth is lost, the bone in the jaw that surrounded and supported that tooth melts away. There is a 25% decrease in width of bone during the first year after tooth loss and an overall 4 millimeters decrease in height over the next few years. The longer you have missing teeth, the greater the loss of bone.
As bone loss continues, it can actually affect the structure of your face. If you lose your teeth early in adulthood, by age 45 you might start to notice sunken cheeks. By age 60, your cheeks and lips will lose their support, resulting in a collapsed and aged look. If your teeth are not replaced, this process will continue, and you will be in danger of losing much of the structural support of your lips and cheeks.
Luckily, we can use dental implants to not only restore your smile, but also to halt this bone loss. Implants look, feel and function like your natural teeth and are made of titanium, which has the unique ability to fuse with your living bone. Among the many benefits of implants, they continue to provide stimulation to your bone, preventing further bone loss.
With a success rate of more than 95%, implants are the best long-term solution for tooth replacement.
If you would like more information about implants and bone loss, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”
If you are at all uncomfortable at the thought of getting a dental implant, you might be pleasantly surprised to learn the truth about these marvelous state-of-the-art tooth-replacement systems — and the special role of a relatively new device, the mini-implant. So, first, let's go over some basic facts.
What's a dental implant? Basically, it's just a replacement for the root part of the tooth, the part that lies beneath the gum line. It attaches to a crown, which is a replacement for the visible portion of the tooth. But instead of ceramics or metals, implants are made of titanium, which becomes fused to the surrounding bone. When complete, implants are much stronger and longer-lasting than other methods of tooth replacement, like bridgework and dentures.
Implants are presently regarded as the best way to replace missing teeth, with a success rate of over 95%. They also help prevent bone loss in the jaw, a major goal of modern dentistry. Having one put in is an office procedure that's generally accomplished with local anesthesia, and most patients experience only minor discomfort. Standard dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, or multiple teeth. The mini-implant, which is just a miniature version of the same technology, is now playing an increasing role in many other phases of dentistry.
Why mini-implants? Because in several situations, this smaller and less expensive alternative offers a solution that's just as good — or better — than any other dental treatment. One area where mini-implants excel is in supporting lower jaw overdentures.
Many people find that lower dentures are far more troublesome than upper dentures. The movement of the tongue muscle, and the smaller area of surface contact (compared to the upper denture, which is supported by the palate) often results in a poor, loose fit, which leads to problems when eating or speaking. These problems can be solved by affixing a lower overdenture (an implant-retained denture) with just two mini-implants.
Not only do mini-implants help prevent bone loss, they also give the denture wearer increased stability, comfort, and confidence. And they do so at a price that's more economical than you might think. In some cases, the mini-implants can be placed in a single one-hour office visit, and your own denture can be modified to fit them — so you can go home and eat a steak that night!
Another area where mini-implants are finding increasing use is in orthodontics. Orthodontic appliances (commonly called braces) move teeth by exerting a light force on them, using a wire which is fixed to a solid anchor point. Traditionally, other teeth are used as anchors — but sometimes these teeth move as well! By using immovable mini-implants as the anchor points, the process is greatly simplified. Strategically placed mini-implants called TADS (temporary anchorage devices) can be used to correct both skeletal (jaw) position and dental (tooth) position problems.
Mini-implants may also be used in upper dentures and temporary bridgework.
If you would like more information about mini-implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw,” “The Great Mini-Implant,” and “What are TADS?”
Worldwide it is generally accepted that the best method for permanently replacing a missing tooth is with a dental implant. However, one fact that can affect the timing of placement of dental implants is that the person should be fully mature. In this case, it means that growth is complete, in particular the jawbones have completed growing. And while we are sensitive to teens who may beg for a dental implant to replace a missing, damaged or traumatized tooth, parents or caregivers should know that research and experience have shown that it is better to wait.
The main reason it is best to wait is because natural teeth grow and move with the jaws as they mature whereas implants don't. Natural teeth change positions and move with the jaws as the jaws grow, implants don't. They are fused to the bone in one position and as the jawbone grows, they get left behind and appear to sink as the adjacent teeth and jawbone grow in harmony.
Although it is not really possible to determine exactly when a person has finished growing, it is generally best to wait until the jaw is fully matured and developed. However, we are the most qualified, along with our orthodontic colleagues to “guesstimate” based on family history, age and genetics. Specialized radiographs (x-rays) of the skull and jaws may also be helpful in determining the timing of jaw growth completion and when implants can be placed.
Dental implants are a permanent solution to a dental problem and thus should not be used until all growth is complete. Think about it. Your young child gets a beautifully restored smile through a dental implant...and for a year or two it looks fantastic. However, as your child's jaws continue to grow, everyone begins to notice gaps between the implant and adjacent teeth. So it makes sense to avoid this eventuality; by just waiting until late teens when beautifully restored crowns on properly positioned dental implants should last for many many years.
Most people think of bone as rock-solid, but it's actually a living tissue that's constantly changing. This has significant implications for your oral health, general health, and appearance — if you are one of the 70% of Americans missing at least one tooth.
Throughout the day, your top and bottom teeth make hundreds of fleeting contacts with each other. These small stresses are transmitted though the periodontal ligament (“peri” – around; “odont” – tooth) that supports each tooth in its socket like a hammock. Think of it as a gentle push on the hammock, which causes the tooth to gently bump the underlying bone. The bone then builds up in the spot that's receiving stress to counteract it. This constant remodeling of bone is what allows bone to stay healthy and strong.
When a tooth is lost, the bone does not receive that gentle stress. It reacts by literally melting away. Sometimes this happens fairly quickly — in a matter of months. After the tooth-supporting bone is lost, the jawbone itself begins the same process of deterioration. This could eventually change the shape of the face, as the distance from nose to chin can decrease — even if only a few back teeth are missing. The results aren't pretty. But the good news is, there's a way to prevent all this.
Dental implants, which function as substitute tooth roots, actually save underlying bone when teeth are lost. They do this because they are made of titanium, which fuses to the bone in which it's set, stabilizing it. The implant is topped by a realistic-looking crown, which replaces the part of the missing tooth that was visible in the mouth. Together, they look and function just as your natural tooth did.
If you are missing a lot of teeth, implants can also be used to anchor bridges or even removable dentures while providing that same bone-saving benefit. And when you consider that they are so durable they should never need replacement, implants are a great investment.
You can read more about this topic in the Dear Doctor magazine article “The Hidden Consequences of Losing Teeth.”