Dental implants have changed the face of dentistry over the last 25 years. Once, millions of people who lost teeth due to various reasons were forced to wear dentures, while others who have perfectly healthy and natural teeth prepared for crowns and bridges. Today, these individuals have an extremely advantageous choice… this is the option to choose dental implants!
To implant, as defined in a dictionary, is to insert something or to fit or set something small into something larger, which then encases it. A present day dental implant is just that: a component made in titanium of different grades (only the best) that is inserted into teeth supporting part of the jaw bone and sometimes other areas of the jaws.
Implants are the best choice when a single tooth or multiple teeth are missing. Preparing natural teeth for crown and bridgework risks jeopardising a tooth in the long term and if an option is to wear a removable denture, there can be some amount of inconvenience for various reasons. The inconveniences with wearing dentures include discomfort and/or irritation of the gums and mouth, mouth infections and problems with speaking and eating among other issues. Of note, is that even with these issues, there are possible solutions.
An implant is meant to support teeth. This is done through a biologic process called osseointegration (normally needs between 10 to 14 weeks), which forms an intimate bond to bone strong enough to support a removable or fixed prosthesis in the form of artificial teeth when loaded as in eating.
Implants are convenient, durable; improve eating, speech and oral hygiene when compared to other choices. They enjoy very high success rates. They feel like you have your own teeth back. Implants are not biologically completely similar to natural teeth. They do not have a periodontal ligament that surrounds them. The surface that contacts an implant is bone unlike in a tooth where a periodontal ligament intervenes. Despite this, they function and adapt just like natural teeth do.
For an implant adequate bone is required. Often, this is present and the insertion of the implant is a straightforward procedure for dental practitioners such as periodontists, implantologists and oral surgeons as well as others trained in implantology.
X-rays such as Orthopantomographs and a thorough clinical examination are required to assess the implant diameter and length. Proper function and aesthetics dictate that implants need to be inserted with the end in view. This means working backwards with the teeth first in place.
Precision and proper care are mandatory for long term successes and state of the art jaw scans using Cone Beam Computerised Tomography are used to evaluate proximity of anatomic structures such as the maxillary sinus and nerves, as well as, the density, height and thickness of bone. Complications are extremely rare when such important parameters are selected in evaluation.
If you have lost a tooth or a few teeth and would prefer to get implants, here are a few points to consider:
Research: Prior to making your visit to see your dentist, do some research so as to inform yourself as to the type of questions you should ask about implants and possible alternative procedures.
Professional Opinion: Always seek a professional consultation in order to get an evaluation, accurate information on whether implants are required, what the process entails (physically and financially) and answers to any questions that you may have in general about your dental health.
By Dr Kaizad Kermani