Dental implants are considered the most effective and modern approach to replacing missing teeth, obviating the need for removable dentures and tooth preparation. A dental implant is a metal fixture (usually screw-like) that is placed into the jaw bone. It acts as a support for a false tooth or a set of false teeth. The fixture fuses with the jaw bone (osseointegration). Implants are made of commercially and medically pure titanium. After a period of adjustment, implant restorations look, feel and function like natural teeth, and therefore they are often a much better solution than removable dentures or bridges. Although implants until recently were reserved for affluent patients, nowadays they are a common tooth replacing method, and modern dentistry is unimaginable without them.
The advantages of using implants
There are many advantages of implant therapy over other tooth replacement methods. The benefits include:
Comprehensiveness — implants can replace one or several teeth, but they also can be used in completely edentulous patients.
Durability — implants are a long-term solution. If the patient adheres to the maintenance instructions and regularly visits the dentist for professional care, dental implants can last a lifetime.
Preservation of tooth and bone structure — implants obviate the need for preparing the adjacent teeth, but also prevent bone resorption.
Functionality — after adjustment an implant restoraton feels and functions like like a real tooth, so patients’ life quality is enhanced, since they can enjoy food and laugh without restraint. Maintenance of implants is comparable to that of natural teeth. They do not need to be removed for cleaning and the possiblity of gum problems and infections is reduced (unlike removable dentures or bridges).
Aesthetics — implants do not change the physiognomy of the face and implant restorations look like natural teeth.
Who is candidate for an implant therapy?
Implants can be placed in patients of all ages, provided they are healthy and the placement is medically justified and possible. We especially recommend this treatment option to all patients who have lost only one tooth, whereby the adjacent teeth are healthy, because their insertion obviate the need for preparing intact teeth, which is inevitable if bridges or dentures are the choice.
The implant placement procedure
Implant placement is an easy, relatively painless and safe outpatient surgical procedure which is performed by the dentist under local anesthesia. The most widely practiced method of placing dental implants is a “staged surgery” procedure:
Inspection of teeth and gums, and insight into the patient’s overall health; X-ray of both jaws as basis for an accurate diagnosis and detailed planning of the operation.
The surgeon embeds the implant in the bone where the tooth’s root would normally be. If the bone mass around the implant is not sufficient, the patient may undergo a bone augmentation the procedure which is not painful and takes about half an hour.
It takes about three to six months for the implant to fully integrate with the bone of the jaw. During this healing period, the implant is covered with a special cap for protection. Once the implants have had a chance to heal and have been tested for successful integration, the final restorative step takes place. This stage consists of fabricating and connecting the prosthetic teeth to implants.
The new tooth looks, feels and functions like a natural teeth, and that is how it should be taken care of – the usual daily oral hygiene routine is indicated. Since longevity of the implant depends on the maintainance, patients should strictly follow the dentist’s instructions.
Implant treatment options
a) Single tooth on implant
Implant replaces only one missing tooth in the jaw.
b) A small bridge on implants
Depending on the condition of the jaw, three missing teeth can be replaced by placing two implants.
c) Circular bridge on implants
Depending on the condition of the jaw, a certain number of implants (4 – 8) is placed in a specific arrangement. After insertion, a temporary denture may need to be worn during the integration phase before the permanent restoration.
d) Overdenture on implants
Depending on the condition of the jaw, a certain number of implants (4 – 8) is placed in a specific arrangement. After insertion, a temporary denture may need to be worn during the integration phase before the permanent restoration. After the healing period, ball abutments or bars are placed on top of the implants to serve as retention for overdentures.
e) All-on-4 or the new teeth in 24 hours
A relatively new, almost painless method used to help edentulous patients to get a brand new smile within 24 hours after a simple surgical procedure. Obviously, the artificial teeth are fixed on four implants in one jaw. They are placed in the front part at an certain angle to obviate the need for bone augmentation. Thus, the former edentulous patient leaves the office with a fixed prosthesis on the same day!