f you have lost a tooth, due to an accident or trauma then dental implants can help provide a safe and effective replacement. In the past the only option for replacing teeth was to use a dental restoration such as dental bridges or dentures. Bridges work by having the surrounding teeth support a false tooth but have been quickly surpassed in popularity by rapid innovations in implant technology. Similarly, dentures use either a partial or complete set of restorations but aren’t as sturdy as implants. In addition, there are also several problems that can occur with dentures and bridges like clicking noises which happen when eating and speaking. In some cases bridges may harm the teeth which are used as anchors and using dentures over long periods can sometimes cause bone loss. Because of the many problems which can occur with bridges and dentures, they have a relatively short life compared to implants and will need to be replaced regularly.
Dental implants are artificial tooth root replacements which are used to provide support to one or more dental restorations designed to mimic the appearance of your teeth. As opposed to bridges which are anchored by the surrounding teeth, dental implants are anchored by a specially designed socket implanted into your jaw bone.
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Dental implants can be used to support an individual tooth but one implant is also capable of supporting a number of teeth. If you are undergoing a full mouth reconstruction then several implants may be required in both your upper and lower jaws. The implanting process creates a much sturdier anchor for your restorations than bridges or dentures enabling them to have a much longer life.
Material used for Dental Implants
The most common material used in the creation of dental implants is titanium. This metal is long lasting and has the added benefit of reacting well to your body’s bone and tissue. Dental implants last a very long time and if you maintain a good level of oral hygiene, they can even last a lifetime.
Many people experience anxiety about their teeth. Unless you have had high-class dental care throughout your life it is likely that you will not be entirely happy with your smile. For many people, however, the problem is more severe than a less than pearly white smile.
If you suffer from missing teeth you may experience a number of problems. You may find eating some foods difficult, you may also experience some pain in your gums where your tooth used to be. It is also possible that your speech may be slightly altered. The most common reason that people have missing teeth replaced by dental implantation, however, is aesthetic.
Why do People get Dental Implants?
The way we look can seriously affect the way we feel about ourselves. If we are unhappy about our appearance we may develop low confidence and low self esteem which can be problematic, especially in social and professional situations. Not only are missing teeth considered undesirable in their own right but they can also make you appear older as your teeth provide structure to your face. Toothlessness, therefore, can cause your lips and mouth to appear sunken.
Dental implants are a very effective solution to the problem of missing teeth. They can help to fill the gaps. They are effective, permanent and can enable you to eat foods you thought having dentures would not allow, smile without worrying about your appearance, talk confidently without self-consciousness and generally restore your self-esteem. Dental implants can successfully tackle all problems that missing teeth cause.
Procedure for fitting Dental Implants
Before you have the treatment, you will be given a thorough oral examination which will help plan the steps needed in your surgery. This examination will also check for any problems such as disease or decay which will need to be fixed before undergoing the treatment. A number of X-ray photographs will usually be taken to enable your dentist to assess the strength of the bone in the target area. In some cases a CT scan may also be required.
The procedure itself is usually performed under a local anaesthetic, which will numb the treatment area. A cut will be made in your gum which will then be lifted to expose the desired implant location. A hole will be drilled in your jawbone and the implant will be carefully secured into it. The gum is then replaced and stitched. After your implant is fully integrated a permanent restoration is attached. For some patients, there will not be enough bone in the area targeted for implantation and so a bone graft or mini implants may be required.
After your gum tissue around the implant area has completely healed, your gum is again lifted and a post attached to the implant. Your dentist will usually place a temporary dental crown on this to minimise the amount of force placed on the area. Once the gum has healed again in a few weeks, the temporary crown is removed and a permanent restoration is fixed to the implant.
Recovery from Dental Implant Surgery
After undergoing the implant surgery you will need to give your mouth time to heal and become used to the implant. The length of time involved varies in case to case basis with some patients taking only a few weeks and others up to six months for full integration. While you are healing, it is common to be given temporary bridges or dentures to wear.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Implants have a great deal of advantages when compared to traditional restorations. The loss of a tooth can often cause atrophy which means your bone will cease to grow in the area and in some cases begin to recede. The titanium anchor used in dental implants has actually been shown to stimulate bone growth which means the shape of your jaw won’t change. Restorations often mean you have to avoid certain types of hard food whereas the sturdiness of dental implants means you will not have to alter your diet. When having restorations put in, your healthy tooth structure often needs altering in order to support bridges or crowns. With dental implants there is no need to touch your nearby teeth. It is also relatively easy to see when someone is wearing dentures as they can often look unnatural whereas implants are not only more aesthetically pleasing but there is no danger of them coming loose.
Dental implants won’t need the specialist cleaning and care that bridges and dentures require. You can care for your implants in much the same way as your natural teeth, with regular brushing, flossing and a healthy diet. Implants also avoid the inflammation and irritation that dentures can often cause your gums.
‘Mini’ Dental Implants
Mini implants involve a minute titanium implant which is specially created to mimic the root of your tooth. An O-ring is placed into the base of your denture which gives increased stability and flexibility. Mini implants are also completely removable.
Risks with fitting Dental Implants
Although the vast majority of implant surgeries are carried out safely, as with all surgical procedures, there are some risks involved. If you don’t maintain good oral hygiene during the process then a number of problems can occur, including infection. If your immune system has been affected in some way due to a medical condition then you may be excluded from dental implants.
History of Dental Implants
There is evidence that a similar procedure (of implanting straight into the jaw bone) was used by the ancient Mayan people of South America – so the procedure could date back as far as 600 AD!
Modern implants came out of research conducted in the 1950s. At Cambridge University researchers found that they could create a chamber made of titanium and embed it into the soft ear tissue of rabbits. This titanium chamber idea was then used by a Swedish orthopaedic surgeon called Per Brånemark, but the titanium was inserted into the rabbit’s femur, a bone in its leg. The doctor found that after several months of experimenting he was unable to remove the titanium from the bone: the bone grows so close to the titanium that it creates what is effectively a very strong bind. This is a property unique to titanium and it makes it an ideal material for any kind of implant into the bone. The name given to this adherence of titanium to the bone it is implanted into is “osseointegration.”The doctor initially had it earmarked for work on knee and hip surgeries but had more opportunity for practice because of the high population of people without any teeth at all at the time. In 1965, Brånemark fitted his first dental implant into a human mouth. In 1978 he found a commercial partner for the marketing and development of his dental implants: the Swedish defence company called Bofors AB. The number of dental implants placed by this one company alone is over 7 million!
Since the late 70s titanium implants have been the norm, but there has been some recent research into the use of ceramic materials like zirconium. Zirconia comes from the metal zirconium which is near titanium on the periodic table and has similar advantages when it comes to compatibility with human bone and tissue. It has been used for a long time successfully in orthopaedics and might be preferable to titanium for implants in the mouth because it has a more similar appearance to natural tooth enamel. This research is still underway, and zirconia isn’t safe to use for dental implants yet, but technology is always advancing and it may be common practice in the future.
What are Mini Dental Implants?
A mini implant is, as it sounds, a small titanium implant which acts as a prosthetic tooth root, the same as a full implant. It also has what is known as an “o-ring” at the top which is incorporated into the base of a denture. Mini dental implants are perhaps the best way to secure dentures to the mouth because the o-ring allows for very small movements of the denture but it makes it extremely unlikely that your denture will ever come out without you taking it out. The distinction is that they are suitable bases for removable dentures and do not require a permanent prosthetic tooth. They increase the number of foods that denture wearers can eat because they effectively strengthen the dentures. They have been approved by the FDA (the US Food and Drug Administration) as safe to market.