Let's Talk About Dental Implants! By: Dr. Dennis Rothschild

Lately, the most common question I have been asked is about Implants! Are they right for me and how long do they last? So today I am going to answer some of those questions for you!

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that is surgically anchored into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. The benefit of using implants is that they don't rely on neighboring teeth for support and they are permanent and stable. Implants are a good solution for tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth.

The quest to replace lost teeth is not a modern one. There is evidence of tooth replacement that dates back to 400 BC in the accent city of Sidon. It was not until the 1800's that gold alloys were surgical placed into the bone but in 1937 the first modern Implant was placed to replace a lost root. There has been many different transformations in technique and alloys over the past 80 years to give us the predictability be have today in modern Implantology. 

Today implant material is made from different types of metallic materials that are compatible with body tissue. There are different types of dental implants: the first and most common type of dental Implant is placed directly into the jaw bone, like natural tooth roots; the second is used when the jaw structure is limited, therefore, a custom-made metal framework fits directly on the existing bone.

How do they work?

Strategically placed, implants can now be used to support permanently cemented or screw retained bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble real teeth.

Can anyone receive dental implants?

To be an implant candidate you must be in good health, have the proper bone structure and healthy gums for the implant to stay in place. People who are unable to wear dentures may also be good candidates. If you suffer from chronic problems, such as clenching or bruxism, or systemic diseases, such as diabetes, the success rate for implants decreases dramatically. Additionally, people who smoke or drink alcohol may not be good candidates.

What can I expect during this procedure?

If you have a tooth that has failed then it will need to be removed. The next step is based on your bone support.  When it comes to predictability with implants it is all about bone. Both quality and quantity are needed.  Traditionally the space (socket) where the tooth was removed is grafted with bone to allow the body to heal and grow a strong foundation. This process can take 3- 12 months. Then the surgery to anchor the implant "artificial root" into or on your jaw is completed. The procedure is done in the dental office with local anesthesia. The gum is then secured over the implant, which will remain covered until the implant fuses with the bone. The dentist then uncovers the implant and attaches an extension, or post, to the implant. Most patients today want to never go without a tooth so the push to meet this need is to shorten the healing times. There have been procedures designed to place the implant in the space (socket) the root left when it was removed. This is defined as an immediate implant but with any compromise you always give up some predictability.  With immediate implants there are many factors to consider and is not always your best option.

How long does the process take?

The process can take up to 12 months to complete. Each patient heals differently, so times will vary. After the implant and posts are placed surgically, the healing process can take up to six months and the fitting of replacement teeth no more than two months. Sometimes, if a patient has good bone quality, posts can be placed and replacement teeth fitted in one appointment.

What is the success rate of implants?

The success rate for implants depends on the tooth's purpose and location in the mouth, as well as a patient's overall health. Today, depending on which study you are reading, implants success rate are well above 90% at ten years which is significantly higher than any other dental procedures.

How do I care for implants?

Poor oral hygiene is a big reason why some implants fail. It is important to floss and brush around the fixtures at least twice a day. Your dentist will give you specific instructions on how to care for your new implants. Additional cleanings of up to four times per year may be necessary to ensure that you retain healthy gums.

What is the cost of implants?

Since implants involve surgery and are more involved, they cost more than traditional bridgework. However, some dental procedures and portions of the restoration may be covered by dental and medical insurance policies. We can help you with this process.