What Are Dental Implants and Are They Right For Me?

Quite simply, dental implants are artificial substitutes for natural teeth. The artificial root is made of titanium, which has the special property of forming a firm biological “bond” with the jawbone known technically as osseo-integration. Implants can be used with natural teeth, or can serve as anchors for artificial teeth. There are many ways to replace tooth crowns, but only dental implants can replace the entire tooth including both crown and root, thereby preserving the jawbone and facial structure to reduce the aging associated with tooth loss. Dental implants look, feel and function just like your own natural teeth.

Am I a candidate for implants?

Basic health is more of a determining factor than age. If you’re healthy enough to have a tooth extracted, you’re probably healthy enough to receive dental implants. Smoking, immunocompromised patients, uncontrolled diabetes and other abnormal thyroid, adrenal, and pituitary conditions can reduce success rates. Any toothless area can be considered for implant placement, but the site of the missing teeth must have sufficient bone, in terms of thickness, height and density, or bone regeneration procedures may be needed first. Placement surgery is normally performed under local anesthesia in a routine office setting, like extractions. Potential post-operative complications are similar to extractions (possible swelling, bleeding, or infection etc.) but discomfort is usually less than following dental extractions.

How long will they last?

The success rate of osseointegrated dental implants has been reported in the literature between 93% and 98% with the most common failure due to inadequate osseointergration in the beginning that can usually be managed by replacing the fixture, possibly in conjunction with some bone regeneration. The most significant factor in determining implant longevity after integration is the practice of daily, effective oral care and maintenance. As with natural teeth, implant restored teeth must be brushed and kept clean regularly.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

Implants restore proper chewing function so you can enjoy foods previously too “difficult” to eat. Missing teeth can be replaced without having to “cut down” healthy adjacent teeth. You can feel confident that your replacement teeth won’t move or loosen and there are no unsightly partial denture clasps, which place damaging pressure on remaining natural teeth. Since conventional dentures sit on top of the jawbone and gums, continuous shrinkage of the jawbone alters the fit of the denture resulting in slipping or rocking of the dentures. Dentures can, at best, bite with only 25% of the force of natural or implant teeth, while exposed nerves and irritation of the gum tissue may add to the discomfort, further reducing the chewing ability of dentures.

Are dental implants expensive?

Although dental implant treatment may initially be more expensive than other treatment methods it often turns out to be the best investment from a long-term perspective since implants can be expected to last a long time. Other treatment methods like bridges and dentures often require regular alterations and adjustments over time. Additionally, a separate implant is not generally needed for every missing tooth in order to restore function.

This advice is intended to aid you in understanding some of the treatment considerations in replacing missing teeth. Without the benefit of a full dental examination, including a review of medical history, dental x-rays, and diagnostic aids, a specific diagnosis or appropriate course of treatment cannot be determined.