Rarely do we think about our teeth – until we lose one, or more than one, or all of them! Missing teeth can adversely affect how we chew, talk, smile and communicate. Our smile is among the very first things we focus on when we first meet other people and you can bet that many missing teeth are noticed within seconds of our opening our mouths.
Fortunately, dental implant supported restorations are changing the way people live. They are designed to replace the lost tooth roots and provide a solid foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing our appearance will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can once again chew, talk and smile with confidence.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are specially made titanium posts (or screws) that are surgically placed into the jawbone and are designed to integrate with the supporting bone. The implant replaces the previous tooth’s roots and provides a strong foundation for a fixed (permanent) or removable replacement tooth or teeth that should match your natural teeth.
What are the Advantages of Dental Implants?
There are many advantages to dental implants, including:
- Improved appearance. Dental implants look and feel like your own teeth. And because they are designed to fuse with bone, they become permanent. In addition, implants help preserve the supporting facial bone structure. Whenever a tooth is lost, the supporting bone will resorb along with it.
- Improved speech. Trying to speak clearly without your front teeth is a major challenge. Over time, with poor-fitting dentures, false teeth can slip within the mouth causing you to mumble or slur your words. Dental implants allow you to speak without the worry that teeth might slip.
- Improved comfort. Because the surrounding bone fuses to the implant surface, denture wearers see immediate and profound improvement in their denture comfort, fit and function.
- Easier eating. Dental implants are designed to function like natural teeth, allowing you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and comfort. Removable denture wearers are lucky to be able to obtain 25% of their previous chewing function – dental implant supported prostheses change the food choice options overnight.
- Improved self-esteem. Dental implants can give you back your smile and help you feel better about yourself.
- Improved oral health. Dental implants don’t require reducing other teeth, as a tooth-supported bridge does. Because nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health. Individual implants also allow easier access between teeth, improving oral hygiene.
- Durability. Implants are very durable and usually last many years. With good care, many implants last a lifetime.
- Convenience. Removable dentures are just that; removable. Dental implants eliminate the embarrassing inconvenience of removing dentures, as well as the need for messy adhesives to keep them in place.
How Successful Are Dental Implants?
Success rates of dental implants vary, depending on multiple factors such as where in the jaw the implants are placed, health histories and other chewing factors; however, in general, dental implants have a success rate of up to 95-98%. With proper care, many implants can last a lifetime.
Can Anyone Get Dental Implants?
In most cases, anyone healthy enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery procedure is a potential candidates for a dental implant placement procedure. Healthy gums and adequate bony support to hold the implant are factors for long-term success. Patients must be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders (such as diabetes), compromised immune system states, patients taking specific bone altering medications, or patients who have had previous head and neck radiation therapy need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
The Surgical Procedure
For most patients, the dental implant placement involves one surgical procedure. The implants are placed within your jawbone and a healing cap is placed on the implant. The healing cap extends through the gum tissue and helps shape the gum tissue for the eventual final crown or prosthesis.
Bone fusing to the titanium surface of the implant (called osseointegration) takes approximately 3-6 months, depending on the location of implant placement (the upper jaw has less dense bone and takes longer to integrate). During this time, a plan for the making of a temporary tooth or removable prosthesis will be followed with limited chewing occurring on the recently placed dental implant. Once the implant healing process is complete, your general dentist will then remove the healing cap, place a permanent abutment, and take impressions to begin fabricating the final restoration. Most patients experience very little change in their daily activities throughout the entire implant process.
Additional surgical procedures may be indicated depending on the condition of the jawbone where the implant is to be placed. In these cases, Dr. Hutto utilizes advanced bone grafting to prepare the jawbone for implant placement. At your initial consultation, your doctor will determine if bone grafting is needed and discuss the procedures involved. The doctor will also take time to answer any questions you may have regarding dental implant treatment.