As technology advances in the dental world, better options become widely available to patients who might not have been able to replace missing teeth in the past. One of these new developments is called a dental implant, and they are becoming popular quickly.
What Is A Dental Implant and Why Are They Used?
A dental implant is a titanium screw that’s inserted into a patient’s jaw once a tooth has been removed. For some, it is to replace a single missing tooth, but multiple dental implants can be used to replace many missing teeth at once or over time, depending on the patient’s needs. For those replacing only one tooth, or one at a time, a small post is inserted and a dental crown is placed on top of the implant itself. When replacing more than one tooth, a bridge can be fitted onto more than one implant. Regardless of how many teeth a patient needs to replace, dental implants are sturdier and much more secure when compared to other replacement options.
Why Are Dental Implants Becoming So Popular?
There are actually several reasons why so many patients are turning to dental implants for replacing their missing teeth or teeth that cannot be saved.
For Individual Missing Teeth
Many patients find themselves with a tooth so decayed or broken that simple restorative dental work — fillings, crowns, root canals, etc — cannot save the tooth, and that it needs to be removed before an infection starts to spread. Before dental implants were an option, dentists would have to use dental bridges to replace even a single missing tooth, which is not ideal.
A dental bridge requires two existing teeth to hold onto on both ends, meaning they need to be ground down – or “prepped” – considerably to ensure the bridge fits. This is great if the surrounding teeth already are in need of restorative dental work. If they aren’t, though, prepping healthy teeth just means you are losing two more teeth in the long run.
Dental bridges need to be cleaned more thoroughly than individual teeth to guarantee success and also only have a lifespan of 8 to 12 years on average. Also, if something ends up happening to one of the anchoring teeth such as trauma or decay from not taking good care of it, the entire bridge will need to be replaced, if even possible. A dental bridge can replace a few missing teeth, but any more than 4 is too risky. This means if you choose to replace one tooth with a three tooth bridge and that fails, you now have to replace all three of those teeth, which means a five tooth bridge.
For single missing teeth, a dental implant only involves the missing tooth and no others. It also has a much longer lifespan and shouldn’t need replacing unless the patient doesn’t care for it at all.
Predictability and Appearance
As stated above, a single dental implant properly taken care of can last the lifetime of the patient. Over the last 20 years, use of dental implants has proven they are extremely predictable and last much longer than other dental restorative work. They cannot get cavities, and the only way one can fall out of place is if the patient suffers from extreme bone loss, something that is caught and fixed early on as long as they stick to their regular check-ups.
Dental implants are also made to be very aesthetically pleasing as they look identical to natural teeth. Using an all porcelain crown instead of ones with metal in them creates the appearance of a healthy, unrestored tooth. The dentist placing the crown will make sure they take a shade of the surrounding teeth before starting the crown so the dental laboratory can match the shade of the implant crown perfectly, causing the dental implant to be nearly impossible to recognize once completed.
For Patients Replacing Multiple Teeth
Because dental implants are so sturdy, they are successfully used to stabilize dental bridges. An implant-supported bridge is a dental bridge that uses dental implants to make them more stable and secure, thus lengthening the bridge’s lifespan.
Who Places the Dental Implant?
Many patients ask us about advertisements by other dentists claiming to place their own implants. At Madison Family Dental, it is strongly believed that dental implant placement requires significant skill and training. Oral surgeons such as those that we refer our patients to have had at minimum an additional four to five years of training in performing surgery in the mouth such as placing dental implants. Those general dentists who advertise that they place their own dental implants only have a few weekend classes about placing dental implants under their belts.
We believe implant placement requires significant skill and training. When an implant is placed it is important to avoid the nerves that run through the lower jaw bone, the sinus cavity in the upper jaw bone, and the nearby tooth roots. Also, it is very important to assess the quality and the quantity of the bone and to place the implant at a precise location so we can restore it properly. If not placed at the right angle, the tooth may be sticking out the wrong direction. Who would you rather have place the implant? We believe strongly in having the implant placed by someone with skill, knowledge, and training. The implant piece in the bone is placed by an oral surgeon, but the attaching fixture (abutment), and prosthetic tooth (implant crown) is made with your dentist at Madison Family Dental.
Are there disadvantages of implants?
1. Implants do take longer than other treatment options from start to finish. The tooth needs to be removed and then usually there is a wait time of 2-3 months before the surgeon can place the implant to ensure nice healthy bone in the area for the implant. Following that, there is a 2-3 month wait while the implant heals within the bone. After this, we can make the tooth portion that will attach on to the implant piece in the bone, and that usually takes 2 weeks. Sometimes the surgeon can place the implant at the time the tooth is extracted and that cuts a couple months off the time needed.
A more traditional treatment like a bridge will take about three months less time.
2. Implants require an investment that is usually slightly more than a bridge; however, as mentioned they have the potential of a longer lifespan in the mouth.
3. Even though implants can’t get a cavity, implants can get gum disease so it is still important to clean carefully around them. People who have implants need to be particularly diligent to stay on a regular cleaning schedule, but typically, no additional long-term care is needed different than regular exams and cleanings.
What about the advertisements I see for implants in a day? Why don’t you do those?
Well, as we mentioned above, in some instances the surgeon can place the implant at the time of extraction which significantly reduces the time between tooth removal and replacement. If this is an option for you we will have you consult with the surgeon and facilitate that for you.
There are offices that are then placing a crown or a denture right on the newly placed implants. Here is what we believe are the pitfalls with that option:
1. The failure rate is typically much higher. There are two main reasons for a higher failure rate:
a.) Because they are often using the “mini” implants (look for an entire blog post on mini implants coming soon) and what they do is place double the number of implants that they need because the typical failure rate is 50%. Hopefully, the ones that do fail won’t jeopardize the restoration being placed.
b.) At the time of placement the implant is just sitting in the bone. The bone cells have not grown around and attached themselves to the implant literally fusing the implant to the bone. So when you place an implant with an immediate restoration on it and the patient starts loading the implant by chewing on it, the implant is being moved around in the bone and can loosen or get moved out of position. An analogy is to think about placing a wooden post into wet cement and then putting force on it, the post usually gets moved out of position. If you wait for the cement to harden before you apply any force to the post the post is securely in the cement and it won’t move and it will be in the right position. The same is true for your implant. While we know it can be difficult to be without a tooth or teeth there are options for us to provide you with a temporary appliance while we wait for the implant to properly heal. An implant is an investment and we want that investment to last you as long as possible.
2. The restoration in most instances is a temporary which means that you still need to go back for additional treatment.
Our focus is for you the patient and what is best for your long-term health.