1. What is a dental implant?
Dental implants are screw-shaped or cylindrical root-form
titanium posts that act as artificial tooth roots. These are
carefully placed in the jawbone and allowed to heal. During the
healing phase, your bone is growing right up to the implant surface
in order to lock it in place.
Shortly thereafter, a crown is made to fit on top of the
implant's) so as to replace a missing tooth or teeth with a
"brand-new" tooth. In many cases, you can be functioning on your
"new" tooth in as little as 6 weeks!
2. What are some of the benefits of dental implants?
They look and feel just like your own teeth. Dental implants
restore your confidence to talk, laugh, and chew with comfort and
Implants preserve the integrity of facial structures. Implants
prevent the hard and soft tissue collapse that can occur under
conventional bridges and removable partial dentures. In patients who
have lost all of their teeth, the lower one-third of the face is
prone to collapse if implants are not placed to preserve the bone
and the facial profile. Implants form a strong bond to the
surrounding bone to provide support and anchorage for biting and
chewing as well as stimulation for the bone to hold it in place.
Implant-supported crowns and bridges do not require neighboring
teeth for support. When teeth are replaced using traditional
tooth-supported bridges, the teeth on either side of the missing
tooth are ground down so that the bridge can be cemented onto them
(Click on figure at left). This tooth structure can never be
replaced. Removable partial dentures use clasps and rests which have
to be carved onto adjacent teeth. As the partial rocks back and
forth, it can loosen the teeth it depends on for anchorage, causing
them to be lost.
Implants replace the entire tooth and the missing root so it is a
free-standing restoration. This leaves more of your natural teeth
untouched and free of restorations which saves your natural teeth.
Better health and nutrition because you can eat what you want.
Patients with dentures often find themselves unable to eat certain
foods, such as fruits and vegetables, which can compromise their
nutrition. With dental implants, it is much easier to bite into and
chew your favorite foods.
Ease of cleansing. An implant supported crown can be cleaned like
your other natural teeth, i.e. brushing and flossing. Cleaning under
a bridge, however, requires the use of floss threaders for proper
cleaning, while a partial must be taken out several times a day and
Enjoy your food. Patients who wear an upper denture often have
trouble really tasting food because the roof of the mouth is
covered. With implant supported replacement teeth, it is not
necessary to cover the roof of the mouth, so it is possible to enjoy
the taste of all your favorite foods.
3. What if I have already lost all of my teeth?
If you are a denture wearer and are having problems keeping your
dentures in place or you cannot enjoy some of your favorite foods,
implants can still make a big difference for you. Depending on your
individual case, anywhere from 2 to 8 implants can be placed in each
jaw to anchor your dentures in place. No more wobbling or clicking;
no more messy pastes and glues. You will be free to enjoy all of
your favorite foods with confidence and comfort.
4. How long do implants last?
Published clinical research shows that implant supported
restorations have been successful for over 30 years with success
rates now reaching over 95%. These cases were carefully followed
from the very beginning and are likely to remain successful for the
lifetime of these patients.
Dental implants are designed to be permanent but there are many
factors that contribute to their longevity. Home care and regular
visits to the dentist or specialist are probably the most critical
aspects. However, smoking, grinding of the teeth, or too much
pressure on the implants can alter their success.
By comparison, research shows that the typical tooth supported
bridge lasts from 7-10 years and that partials and dentures last an
average of only 5 years. In fact, insurance companies expect that
bridges, partials, and dentures will last 5 years and will therefore
pay for replacements every 5 years.
5. In what situation then, if any, would a dentist recommend a
tooth supported bridge?
Until recently, most dentists considered conventional bridges the
treatment of choice for replacing missing or lost teeth. However,
over the past decade there have been tremendous advancements in
dental implant systems allowing more options for dentists.
Sometimes if the adjacent teeth have large restorations
(fillings) that must be replaced or if the teeth are severely broken
down, a tooth supported bridge may be the best option because those
teeth could benefit from the protection of crowns attached to
Most dentists, however, detest the idea of grinding down perfect
teeth in order to place a traditional bridge and will therefore
recommend dental implants in these cases.
6. Where do I start?
You can begin by making an appointment with any one of the
doctors or your general dentist for a consultation.
Dental implants feel so natural and look so good, you just may
forget you ever lost a tooth.