Dental Implants: What You Need to Know

The loss of teeth can cause a number of issues, including self esteem problems (if the space where the tooth is missing is visible) and biting difficulties. Dental implants are often the solution for missing teeth, replacing them with an anchored tooth, unlike a bridge or denture which is only set into the mouth and can be removed.

Dental implants have many benefits, but the main one is that they act just like a real tooth, making them ideal for younger people who would usually have many more years of chewing left and who may not be able to deal with dentures.

The Process

Dental implants have actually been around for thousands of years, since the Mayans used pieces of shell integrated into the jaw bone to replace teeth. Now the technology has advanced greatly, of course, but the idea remains the same. The durability of these replacement teeth comes from the fact that they are actually anchored in the bone. The process of the bone growing around the implant is called osseointegration.

Step One: Preparing the Jaw

The first thing the dentist needs to do is drill a hole in the empty socket, right down into the bone. This is a very delicate procedure, since a miscalculation could result in nerve damage or bone splintering. The first hole is quite small.

Step Two: Placement of the Screw

Next, the hole is carefully enlarged until a titanium screw can be screwed down into it. The top of the screw is capped and there is a 3-6 month waiting period as the bone grows around the implant anchor, firmly setting it in place. If the implant fails, it is during this step when the bone fails to integrate the screw into the jaw bone.

Step Three: Crown Placement The final step, once the titanium screw is anchored firmly in the jaw, is to add a permanent cap to the space. The temporary one is removed and the permanent one attached. At this point, it is literally impossible to tell the difference between your regular teeth and the dental implant. The new implants are stronger and more durable than dentures, as well, making them the perfect chewing surface.

Failure Rates

Lower jaw implants are slightly more successful (95%) than the upper jaw (90%), mainly due to the fact that the lower jaw has more mass and is able to receive the screws better. However, there are a number of factors that may contribute to a failed implant. The main reason is the lack of bone growth around the screw, but it isn`t the only cause.

Smokers tend to have a fairly high rate of dental implant failure, so it`s a good idea to quit smoking beforehand. Also, these new teeth aren`t invincible . . . they can be broken or infected just like normal teeth and bad hygiene affects them similarly, though implants cannot get cavities. Instead, they form gum disease.

New Procedures

With the advancement of technology, it`s been discovered that if you have a tooth pulled and immediately have the dental implant procedure done, the success rate is not only higher, but the speed at with osseointegration occurs is much faster, often resulting in a wait of just a few weeks, rather than months before the permanent cap can be applied.

Dental implants require undergoing oral surgery and can be uncomfortable, but the benefits are worth it. Being able to eat normally and smile without shame are just two of the big benefits of this procedure.

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