What exactly is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial titanium root that is placed in your jaw. It is made of the same surgical titanium as hip and knee replacements, and works by the same principles. Your bone grows into the surface of the implant, and locks it in place through a process called osseointegration. After about 3 months, the implant is integrated into the jaw, and is ready to be restored. There are 3 parts to the implant restoration: 1- The implant itself (artificial root)
2- The abutment, which attaches to the implant and looks similar to a tooth prepared for a crown.
3- The crown, which is bonded to the abutment.
Does it hurt to get a dental implant?
Obviously during the actual procedure we will make sure that you are very numb and comfortable. But what about afterwards? For the average dental implant placement, there is very little post operative pain. With advances in imaging and planning with our 3D CBCT and planning software, many implants can be placed just making a small opening in the top of the gums with the Waterlase laser. These cases don't even require sutures, and patients usually report virtually zero post-op pain. If you have a more complicated case requiring bone grafting or a sinus lift, your post op discomfort will be higher.
Why is a dental implant better than a bridge?
One very important reason! With a fixed bridge, your dentist has to prepare the adjacent teeth for crowns so the bridge can be made. You have now made a "one tooth problem" a "three tooth problem"! In addition, when the bridge needs to be replaced (average lifespan is about 7 years), all three teeth need to be done again. So the entire expense happens again. In our practice (because I have complete control over the fee for every step), we have kept the fee for an implant replacement of a tooth the same as a three unit bridge. So, from a financial as well as a dental perspective the implant is the best option.
How long do dental implants last?
When dealing with dental/medical procedures on the human body, unfortunately EVERYTHING has a life span. However, with that said, dental implants have one of the longest life spans of any dental treatment. Because the implant and crown are completely artificial, there is nothing to decay. About the only thing that can happen is fracture of one of the pieces, or gum disease around the implant. Occasionally the crown or bridge on the implant has to be replaced due to wear. With proper care and maintenance, the implant itself may last for your entire lifetime.
Are their situations were a dental implant isn't possible?
Unfortunately, yes. Although advances in dental implant technology have made it a very successful procedure, even for smokers and diabetics, there are still situations where they cannot (or should not) be attempted.
1- Uncontrolled diabetes- If you are an uncontrolled diabetic, your healing will be adversely affected. You must get your sugar levels under control before attempting dental implant treatment.
2- Bisphosphonate drug use (especially in I.V. form). Drugs such as Actonel, Boniva, Fosamax, Reclast and Zometa interfere with bone healing and turn over. Sometimes a drug holiday can give us the window we need to place an implant, sometimes it is completely contraindicated. If you have taken any of these medications, please let us know so that appropriate lab tests and physician consultations can be made prior to planning dental implants.
3- Severe bone loss. Sometimes, so much bone is lost due to an extraction that it would be difficult (or too expensive) to regain enough bone with grafting to successfully place an implant.
4- The missing tooth space is too small. Sometimes when a tooth is lost, the adjacent teeth drift into the space, making it smaller. Implants require a certain amount of space to place, and situations like this either need orthodontics to open the space, or a fixed bridge must be done.
Can your body reject a dental implant?
Not really. We don't usually see rejection of a dental implant. A small percentage of them do fail (about 5%). Usually this is due to infection around the implant, but sometimes the implant just fails to integrate with no real reason seen. In addition about 0.6% of the population has an actual allergy to titanium (a VERY rare occurrence). So, for the vast majority of patients, implants are placed with complete success and remain in function for many, many years.