Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat most foods as usual and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. The implants themselves are small titanium posts that are placed in the jaw bone where teeth are missing. The bone grows to and fuses with the titanium (osseous-integration), creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. In addition, implants can help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing. With dental implants, people are rediscovering the comfort and confidence to eat, speak, laugh and enjoy life.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Dental implants can be used in a variety of ways. In some instances they offer better stand-alone solutions than conventional dental restorations such as fixed bridges and removable dentures. You can brush and floss the dental implant crown as a natural tooth. Keeping the implant and crown clean are very important to its success and longevity. Often dental implants are placed to hold a removable denture more firmly and this converted denture is called an “overdenture”.
Is there enough bone for dental implants?
Dental x-ray images and clinical exams help determine if enough bone exists to place the dental implants. Sometimes, in conjunction with a clinical examination, Dr. Brooks feels comfortable in proceeding with the placement of a dental implant without a bone graft. Often, a minor or major bone grafting procedure may be done prior to placing a dental implant.
Are there any dangers that I should be worried about, when having implants placed?
Yes. While implants are over 90% successful, the most important risks to be aware of are: infection, implant rejection, persistent numbness and pain. You can walk through the airport metal detectors, have dental X-ray images taken and have an MRI scan of the head done without interference or disruption to the dental implant. We would prefer patients to refrain from using tobacco products and take only appropriate medication to optimize the health of the dental implant/bone/gingiva relationship.
Can an implant be rejected?
Yes. Implants can be rejected, but not in the way we know “rejection” can occur in organ transplants, like with kidneys and hearts. We know dental implants are bio-compatible.
There are no known allergic reactions to commercially-pure, titanium implants, which are the most prevalent kind used today. But failures do occur. The failures we see in dental implants can be explained more in theory, than in fact. For instance, bacteria can contaminate implants causing bone loss and peri-implantitis. When this happens, the overall infection might cause the implant to be lost. Naturally, great efforts are taken to ensure sterile conditions during implant procedures, from the way the implants are packaged to the hygienic conditions in the operating room.
Apart from potential pitfalls, how long does it take for the implants to "work"?
The Procedure is Done in STAGES
The dental surgery is performed in two STAGES and may take upwards of 9 months to complete treatment. Once a tooth is removed healing must occur for 4 months (STAGE ONE). After that time a dental implant may be placed (STAGE TWO). Though it can vary for specific reasons, the general rule of thumb is that implants placed in the mandible (lower jaw) heal in 4 months, while the maxilla (upper jaw) takes 6 – 7 months, before the final restorations or dentures are placed on the implants. Augmenting the bone, performing sinus lifts, needing jaw reconstruction, etc., will lengthen healing periods. Remember, healing times are related to human biology. Healing cannot be made to go any quicker than how we were intended to heal.
When an implant fails, can another be placed in the same spot?
Usually, yes. We don’t often understand why an implant fails. When it does, the implant is removed. If conditions are right, the site is prepared for another dental implant. Sometimes this can be done at the time the implant is removed. Other times, the surgeon feels it is better to try again only after a prescribed healing period.