Thanks to the media’s interest in health matters, I continue to see increasing patient interest in dental implants.
Dental implants are a means of replacing missing teeth without fabricating a removable appliance or crowning neighboring teeth to anchor a fixed bridge. An implant does this by providing a mechanical replacement for the root of the missing tooth. This not only gives dentists a platform to construct on, but also preserves jawbone. When teeth are lost, the bone that surrounded the root will shrink away unless something replaces the lost root (a dental implant). A second advantage of implants is that they give us the ability to use fixed crowns and bridges in areas where we previously couldn’t because of lack of anchor teeth. Without adequate anchor teeth, only removable appliances could be done in the past.
Another major application of implants is to stabilize lower dentures. Because a lower denture has a small base of support compared to an upper denture and there is a large muscle (the tongue) moving around in the middle of the lower denture, lower dentures are notoriously unstable and, therefore, unsatisfactory to many patients. By using a few implants, we can bring stability to lower dentures. A fourth advantage implants bring is an increased resistance to dental disease. In patients that are losing the battle with gum disease, we can place implants. Since implants are more resistant to further bone loss than natural teeth, they improve the prognosis. Even better, implants and their overlying crowns will not decay no matter how susceptible the patient is to cavities. This is pretty exciting stuff to implant dentists because now we are able to reverse the aging process that losing teeth used to mean to our patients.