What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a metal fixture, usually screw shaped or cylinder shaped and made of titanium, that is placed in the upper or lower jaw bone for later attachment of a dental prosthesis. The implant attachment can be tooth shaped, like a crown, to replace a single tooth, or can be used for attachment of a permanent bridge or an overlying denture or partial denture. If you have missing teeth, or have poor fitting dentures or partials, then implants may be your best choice.
How do dental implants work?
Implants work by mimicking the roots of your natural teeth. They are placed surgically in the bone, and become firmly embedded in the bone by a process called osseointegration. If you have healthy bone and healthy gum tissue, you are probably a good candidate for implants.
Who needs dental implants?
Anyone who is missing teeth and can benefit from increased chewing efficiency, and improved appearance or speech, is a candidate for dental implants. Implants can also be the solution when it has become difficult or impossible to wear a removable denture.
Is dental implant surgery difficult or complicated?
Not if it is performed by a highly skilled oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Dental implant surgery is a specialized, but very straight forward surgery. It requires a skilled surgeon as well as a skilled restorative dentist. The treatment plan is usually broken down into two phases. The first phase is performed by your oral surgeon and consists of the initial placement of the implant, and attachment of the healing cap. The second phase, which is the restorative phase, is performed by your regular dentist and is the fabrication and placement of the final restoration on the implant.
Can implants be put in at the time of extraction?
Sometimes, dental implants can be placed immediately following extraction of a tooth. This can shorten the overall treatment time, however, certain criteria must be met. The criteria would include: adequate healthy bone, healthy gum tissue, and no evidence of infection at the site where the implant is planned to be placed.
Can a tooth or a bridge be attached to my implant right away?
Sometimes temporary teeth or temporary attachments can be placed on an implant at the time of insertion. This is not done routinely, as it significantly increases the risk of failure of the implant. Placing stress on an implant from biting forces prior to an adequate healing time (usually 2-3 months in healthy bone) does not allow for proper attachment to the bone and could result in immediate failure of the implant, or significantly higher risk for bone loss around the implant and loss of stability over time.
Where are dental implants placed?
Implants are most commonly placed in the upper or lower jaw bone. After full dental evaluation and x-rays, including a Cone Beam CT Scan of the prospective implant location, to determine the size and type of implant to be used, the first surgery is performed.
During your first surgery, the implant site is surgically prepared in the bone and the implant is placed. Most frequently, a healing cap is placed on the implant at the time of surgery and the implant is allowed to heal. The implant is left undisturbed in the the bone for about 2-3 months.
Step two is then performed, which is a postoperative evaluation of the implant. At that time, the implant is tested (to evaluate proper healing), and an x-ray is taken. If the implant is well healed and shows good attachment to the bone, you can then return to your dentist to begin restoration of the implant.
What do I do after the dental implant surgery?
After having dental implants placed, regular dental check ups and good oral hygiene will assure that you will keep your implants for many years. Long term success is a goal of any treatment plan for dental implants. Some long term studies have reported success rates of 95% after 20 years of use.
What are the advantages of dental implants as opposed to other restorative options?
The immediate cost of dental implants is greater than treatment such as dentures and bridges, however, it is important to consider some important factors before making a judgment regarding the relative long-term cost of dental implant treatment. To begin with, dental implants are placed without having to harm any of the adjacent teeth. This is not always the case for other types of tooth replacements (such as a bridge which has to cut down (prep) the teeth on each side of the missing tooth). This process is irreversible. Secondly, unlike other types of tooth replacements, dental implants provide support similar to that of the root of a natural tooth. Studies have shown that dental implants result in significantly fewer dental treatment requirements over the long term. Considering all of the above options, dental implants are less expensive than other types of tooth replacements.
If my dental insurance does not cover dental implants, should I still consider them?
This is an interesting question. Many insurance plans have not caught up to the current standard of care when it comes to dental implants, therefore, many insurance plans do not have benefits or have limited benefits for dental implants. At times, patients tend to make treatment decisions on the basis of insurance coverage. While it is important to consider the benefits that are covered through your insurance plan, as well as maximizing the insurance benefits that are available, it is also important that you understand the implications of the different types of treatment. When you make treatment decisions solely or primarily on what is covered by your insurance plan, you may inadvertently be placing more weight on the judgment and priorities of the business people who design insurance plans to make money rather than the careful assessment of what is best for your overall long term health and well-being.
Dental implants sound like an option I’d like to consider. How do I get started?
If you think you may benefit from dental implants, a consultation appointment should be scheduled with Dr. Pitts. At that appointment, Dr. Pitts will discuss your desires with you, do a complete oral exam, take any necessary x-rays including a Cone Beam CT Scan, and provide you with suitable treatment options. Should you decide to have implants placed, Dr. Pitts will most certainly review your treatment plan for your surgery with your general dentist or prosthodontist to decide the best possible placement of the implants for the needed dental restoration and to be sure you get the best result possible.