Dental implants are considered by the dental industry to be the current top-tier treatment for missing teeth. Many people have heard of dental implants, but may not know exactly what they are or how they’re used by dentists to replace lost teeth. Dental implants are the closest available replacement for natural teeth because they are stable, don’t affect surrounding teeth, and can last a lifetime if carefully maintained. Here are some common questions and answers concerning dental implants.
What are Dental Implants?
Often called “tooth implants,” dental implants are surgical fixtures, generally made of titanium, that are placed into the patient’s jawbone by a dental surgeon. Dental implants become fused with the jawbone over the course of a few months. The titanium implant replaces the root of a missing tooth and serves to hold a replacement tooth or a bridge. Titanium construction allows the implant to integrate with the jaw bone (a process called “osseointegration”) without being recognized as a foreign object and rejected by the body.
Once the titanium implant has fully integrated into the bone, the implant crown will be placed by a general dentist or prosthodontist, a dentist specializing in tooth replacement. The implant crown looks like a normal tooth and is supported by the titanium implant.
Who Needs Tooth Implants?
People who have lost one or more adult teeth are candidates for dental implant treatment. Tooth implants can be used to replace several teeth, a single tooth, or all teeth, depending on the needs of the patient. Dental implants are used to restore function, such as the ability to chew and speak, and are also a great way to restore a beautiful smile.
Are Dental Implants the Only Tooth Replacement Option?
Generally, there are three options for replacing missing teeth:
- Dentures. Dentures are removable dental appliances and can be either complete or partial. Dentures are a very affordable option for replacing teeth, but can be inconvenient, as they are removable and can affect taste and the enjoyment of food.
- Dental bridges. Dental bridges are fixed, or cemented, into the mouth. Dental bridges depend on existing natural teeth for support, and were a common choice for tooth replacement prior to the recent shift toward treatment with dental implants.
- Dental implants. Implants do not affect any surrounding natural teeth, and are supported by bone.
Which Tooth Replacement Option is the Best?
Many factors play a part in deciding which option is right for each patient. Some important factors to be considered are:
- Patient’s health. When a dental surgeon examines the patient, he or she will assess whether the patient is a good candidate for dental implants based on overall health and the availability and quality of bone in the patient’s jaw.
- Patient preference. A patient who emphasizes aesthetics may want to choose dental implants due to the superior quality of tooth replacement they provide. Dental implants blend seamlessly with surrounding teeth, providing a beautifully finished smile. Dental implants allow missing teeth to be replaced without affecting adjacent natural teeth, and can have the look and feel of natural teeth.
- Cost. Although dental implants do tend to be more expensive than dentures or bridges, they’re a better long-term investment. Taken care of properly, dental implants can last a lifetime, cutting out the replacement costs commonly seen with dentures and bridges.
What Type of Doctor Performs Dental Implant Surgery?
If implant surgery is in the best interest of the patient, any licensed dentist can perform implant surgery, provided the treatment follows the standard of care. However, since implants do involve surgically-placed titanium in the jawbone, dental specialists are well-equipped to handle various aspects of the dental implant process.
Oral maxillofacial surgeons treat diseases or defects of the hard and soft tissues of the mouth, including tooth extraction and jaw surgeries such as dental diseases or defects, which includes extraction of teeth and jaw surgeries such as dental implants. Periodontists also treat diseases of the structures surrounding teeth, such as the gum and jawbone, and are also equipped to handle dental implant surgery. A prosthodontist is a dentist who replaces teeth and restores patients’ oral health and function.
At EON Clinics, an oral maxillofacial surgeon, a prosthodontist, and a lab technician work together to coordinate each patient’s treatment to deliver the perfect individualized result.
What Are Some Potential Complications or Risks of Implants?
As with any surgery, dental implant surgery does carry some risk, and complications can sometimes arise. An oral surgeon will carefully review a patient’s medical history before recommending dental implant surgery, and this careful assessment of the patient’s health can identify potential issues such as existing medical conditions, bleeding disorders, allergies, ongoing infections, and any medications the patient is currently taking. Identifying these issues before surgery can greatly reduce the risk associated with surgery.
Unlikely complications of dental implants can include infection, peri-implantitis, implant fracture, overloading of the implant, or damage to the surrounding tissue, nerves, blood vessels, or natural teeth. Fortunately, the success rate of implants is very high, and complications are rare and can usually be avoided by careful assessment from a qualified dental surgeon. In some cases, replacement of a failed implant is possible after healing has taken place.
What Follow-Up Care Is Required Following Dental Implant Surgery?
Patients with dental implants have the risk of developing peri-implantitis, a condition equivalent to periodontal disease, or gum disease. Peri-implantitis is inflammation of the bone and gum surrounding an implant, and can often be caused by excessive biting forces on the implant, or by bacterial infection. If left untreated, peri-implantitis can cause the loss of the implant.
To avoid peri-implantitis, good oral hygiene at home is a must, as well as regular follow-ups at a dental office. Routine maintenance care at home consists of regular brushing and daily flossing to keep teeth and implants plaque-free.
Dental implants represent one of the greatest advances in dental science and technology currently available. The dental implant procedure has progressed over time to become the preeminent treatment for tooth replacement, providing patients with restored function and beautiful smiles. Contact EON Clinics today to ask about dental implants and talk with members of our care team.