Dental Implants are one of the most exciting treatments in modern dentistry. Although the first implant was placed 40 years ago, the new developments in the field are making implants a more often utilized restorative option for tooth loss and denture retention. Dental implants can help replace missing teeth that can affect your appearance, oral function, or self-confidence. Drs. Bruce, Ririe, and Pothier have years of experience placing dental implants in Boise, Idaho.
What is a dental implant?
Dental implants are essentially titanium or zirconia (ceramic) root replacements that are inserted into the bone where a tooth originally was. Dental implants are so biocompatible that the bone grows around the implant, locking the implant in the bone. This process is called osseointegration. An abutment, or attachment to the implant that sticks up out of the gum, and crown are then placed on the implant to look and feel like a natural tooth. Alternatively, an abutment may also be placed which can attach to and retain a denture.
The procedure can vary due to the type, location, and circumstances present. In an area where a tooth has been missing and there is an adequate height and depth of bone, a series of drills are used to enlarge the bone to the appropriate size for the implant. The implant is then slowly screwed into the bone and either covered with tissue, covered with a small metal cap or, if in the esthetic zone, covered with a non-functional temporary restoration. After 3 months in areas of dense bone (the lower back teeth) to 6 months in areas of less dense bone (upper teeth) an impression is taken and a final crown made. Other steps may be needed, such as tissue contouring or implant uncovering. Patients generally report little discomfort after implant procedures.
Success rates for dental implants vary depending on the study, but in general success rates are between 90-98%. Selecting patients who are good candidates for implants is important and contributes to success. Smoking, inadequate bone height, width or quality, systemic diseases, hygiene and other factors contribute to failure, but even people with some risk factors can still have dental implants.
Implants can fail for a number of reasons. Failure to osseointegrate or disproportionate force on the implant are two main problems. Breakage of the implant components is also possible. It is important to have your dental implants cleaned and checked regularly to keep these problems from occurring.
Implants have advantages in many situations over other treatments in that they:
- Conserve bone - When a tooth is lost, the surrounding bone resorbs unless it is used. Implants help prevent this bone loss.
- Conserve tooth structure - No preparation of adjacent teeth is needed as compared to a bridge.
- Improve biting pressure and stability when used to support dentures or as a fixed bridge.
- Longevity and reliability - Implants have become a very predictable procedure with high success rates.
- More predictable in cases where adjacent teeth have questionable prognosis for a bridge as the whole bridge may need to be replaced if one part of it fails.
- Preserves integrity of the dental arch - When a tooth is lost, the adjacent and opposing teeth move to fill the space. This can cause spaces in other teeth, cheek and tongue biting or bite problems.
If you don't have an ideal space for an implant, don't worry. Procedures such as sinus lifts, bone grafts, or orthodontics to move teeth can be done to make space for an implant. Talk to your dentist to see what needs to be done.