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Dental Implants: A Long-Term Solution for Missing Teeth

Dental implants are increasingly becoming the solution of choice to replace missing or damaged teeth. Unlike conventional dental bridges and dentures, implants surgically anchor artificial teeth to the jawbone. The 植牙 replaces the tooth root for a stronger, longer-lasting restoration with no damage to nearby healthy teeth.

Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for permanent or removable replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The artificial root is typically made of titanium which is biocompatible and integrates to the jawbone. Implants restore the ability to speak, smile and eat with confidence. They also limit bone loss that occurs after losing one or more natural teeth.

Types of Implants

The most common type of implant is the endosteal implant which goes into the jawbone instead of resting on the gums like bridges and dentures. The endosteal implant is currently the most reliable for long-term success. There are also subperiosteal implants which rest on the jawbone and are made of a metal frame and posts that protrude through the gums. This type of implant is less common as it requires significant bone loss before being considered but provides good support for dentures. More modern types of implants include ceramic implants, mini implants and cone beam guided implants.

Reasons for Dental Implants

There are many reasons why people opt for dental implants:

  • Replace one or more missing teeth without altering adjacent teeth
  • Provide a permanent replacement for missing teeth that won’t slip or make embarrassing noises
  • Preserve facial structure by preventing bone deterioration due to missing teeth
  • Restore chewing and speaking abilities
  • Securely fasten a bridge or denture without adhesives or clasps
  • Improve appearance, smile and confidence

The Implant Procedure

Most implants are a two step process. First, the surgeon will place the implant fixture into the jawbone after administering local anesthesia. The gum is opened and a hole is formed into the bone. Next, the implant fixture in screwed into place and the surrounding bone regrows onto it to hold the implant securely, a process called osseointegration. Healing time is typically between 3 and 6 months. Once healed, the implant is exposed in a second procedure and an abutment is attached. This connects the implant to the replacement tooth. Lastly the artificial tooth, called a crown, bridge or denture, is designed, created and fitted onto the dental implant. From start to finish, the process can take from 3 to 9 months.

Criteria for Implants

The ideal candidates for dental implants are those in good general and oral health. Sufficient jawbone density and volume must be present to securely support the implants. People who lose teeth and suffer bone loss through gum disease or degeneration may not have enough bone for implants without prior bone grafting procedures. Smoking and uncontrolled diabetes can impede successful osseointegration of implants. A thorough dental exam is always conducted to determine if adequate bone, tissue and mouth health is sustainable for implants.

Benefits of Dental Implants

Dental implants offer numerous benefits over dentures and bridgework including:

  • Higher success rate than conventional methods of tooth replacement
  • Total replacement without altering adjacent teeth
  • Customized to match color and fit of natural teeth
  • Do not decay like natural teeth
  • Require same dental care as natural teeth
  • Stable and retentive for better comfort and use
  • May be used with crowns, bridges or dentures
  • Long lasting, upwards of 40 years or more

Caring for Dental Implants

While dental implants don’t require intense programs of home care like bridges and dentures, routine daily maintenance is still needed. Plaque and tartar can build up and lead to irritation and inflammation of the gums around an implant called peri-implantitis. This can cause bone loss around the implant. Prevent peri-implantitis through regular brushing, flossing and semiannual professional cleaning. These simple measures will keep implants plaque-free for optimal function and longevity.

Additionally, implants require the same high standard oral hygiene as natural teeth to prevent tooth decay and periodontal disease. just as these conditions causes tooth loss if left untreated, the same can happen with an implant. Monitor the implants routinely and report any changes to gum recession, pockets, bleeding or discomfort to identify problems early. Repairs are simpler before extensive damage or bone loss occurs.

Financial Considerations

Dental implants and implant related procedures are a significant investment, upwards of $1200 to $3000 per implant. Certain conditions like low bone volume and density or lost teeth require supplemental treatments to prepare the mouth for implants such as bone grafting, ridge augmentation, sinus lifts and gum grafts which add to costs. Overdentures supported by implants for people with significant tooth loss run from $4000 – $20000. While expensive, their high success rate and longevity deliver an excellent return on investment over time.

Dental implant costs are largely not covered by insurance. However, it never hurts to submit the claim as types of policies differ in coverage. Some cover a small portion of implants or at least X-rays and extractions in preparation for the implant. Many dentists also offer affordable monthly payment plans to help manage overall cost.

The Future of Dental Implant Technology

As dental implant treatment grows in popularity for tooth restoration, expect continual advances in the technology. Already in development are next generation implants enhanced at the molecular level to accelerate healing and promote better adherence to the bone. Future trends include ultra-minimally invasive implant procedures using lasers or stem cell regeneration to regrow missing teeth rather than artificial replacements.

Computerized planning and specialized drill guides are improving precision when placing implants. CT scan technology produces 3-D images giving dentists views of jawbone density and anatomical structures from all angles. Software programs map out the optimal number, angulation, position for implants tailored to each patient for long lasting and aesthetically pleasing results.

More modestly priced implants made with zirconia and newer materials besides titanium will increase affordability and access. While currently not as durable for molar teeth implants, stronger materials like polyetheretherketone (PEEK) and densely sintered zirconia show promise. As technology continues to advance, expect faster procedures, quicker healing times, less pain and discomfort to further the popularity of implants for tooth replacement.