Dentures are no longer the only way to restore a mouth that has little or no non-restorable teeth. Strategically placed support such as implants can now be used to support permanently cemented bridges, eliminating the need for a denture. The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble the "feel" of real teeth. Dental implants are becoming the alternative of choice to dentures, but not everyone is a candidate for implants.
Dental implants are tooth root substitutes that are surgically placed in the jawbone and act as anchors to stabilize artificial teeth. They can replace one, some, or all missing teeth and help eliminate the instability associated with surface adhesives and removable bridges. Individuals with adequate bone level and density who are not prone to infection and can maintain stringent oral hygiene are good candidates for dental implants, according to the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons.
The benefit of using implants is that they don't rely on neighboring teeth for support, and are permanent and stable. Dental implants can also be used to attach full or partial dentures.
Implants are a good solution to tooth loss because they look and feel like natural teeth. Implant material is made from different types of metallic and bone-like ceramic materials that are compatible with body tissue. There are different types of dental implants: the first 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.
The cost tends to be greater, but the implants and bridges more closely resemble real teeth.
The success rate for implants depends on the tooth's purpose and location in the mouth. The success rate is about 95 percent for those placed in the front of the lower jaw and 85 percent for those placed in the sides and rear of the upper jaw.
Not everyone is a candidate for a dental implant, however. Because implants require surgery, patients must be in good health, have healthy gums, have adequate bone to support the implant and be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. 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.
If you are considering implants, a thorough evaluation by your dentist will help determine if you would be a good candidate.
Implants first entail a surgical procedure to place the anchor. Surgery can take up to several hours, and up to six months may be required for the bone to grow around the anchor and firmly hold it in place. Some implants require a second surgery in which a post is attached to connect the anchor to the replacement teeth. With other implants, the anchor and post are already attached and are placed at the same time.
After the gums have had several weeks to heal, artificial teeth are made and fitted to the post portion of the anchor. Because several fittings may be required, this step can take one to two months to complete.
Implant surgery can be done either in a dental office or in a hospital, depending upon a number of factors. A local or general anesthetic may be used. Usually pain medications and, when necessary, antibiotics are prescribed. Your dentist will give you instructions on diet and oral hygiene.
Care of 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, without metal objects. 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.