What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for the replacement of teeth which look, feel and function like natural teeth. This helps patients who have lost teeth regain the ability to eat virtually anything, and preserve natural facial contours. Patients with dental implants can smile with confidence.
The implants themselves are small titanium posts, which are placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes. They actually integrate with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Small posts, also called “abutments,” are then attached to the implant, which protrude through the gums and provide stable anchors for artificial replacement teeth in the form of crowns, bridges or even dentures.
Implants also help preserve bone in the jaws, preventing the deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.
The Surgical Procedure
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical visits. First, implants are placed within your jawbone. For the first three to six months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually integrating with the jawbone. Your dentist can provide you with temporary dentures or other provisional tooth replacements while the implant integrates into the bone and your gum tissues heal.
After the implant has bonded to the jawbone, the second phase begins. Dr. Summers and Dr. Strider will uncover the implants and attach small posts or abutments, which will act as anchors for the artificial teeth. The entire procedure usually takes six to eight months. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life.
Dental implants can be your doorway to renewed self-confidence and peace of mind.
Using the most recent advances in dental implant technology, Dr. Summers or Dr. Strider are able to place single stage implants. These implants do not require a second procedure to uncover them, but often require a minimum of six weeks of healing time before artificial teeth are placed. There are even situations where the implants can be placed at the same time as a tooth extraction – further minimizing the number of surgical procedures. Advances in dental implant technology have made it possible, in select cases, to extract teeth and place implants with crowns at one visit. This procedure, called “immediate loading,” greatly simplifies the surgical process.
Who actually performs the implant placement?
Implants are a team effort between an Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeon and a Restorative Dentist. While Dr. Summers or Dr. Strider perform the actual implant surgery, and initial tooth extractions and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and delivers the permanent crowns, bridges or dentures. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.
What types of prostheses are available?
A single prosthesis (crown) is used to replace one missing tooth. Each prosthetic tooth attaches to its own implant. A partial prosthesis (fixed bridge) can replace two or more teeth and may require only two or three implants. A complete dental prosthesis (fixed bridge) replaces all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw. The number of implants varies depending upon which type of complete prosthesis (removable, fixed or a hybrid denture) is recommended. A removable prosthesis (over denture) attaches to a bar or ball in socket attachments, whereas a fixed prosthesis is permanent and removable only by the dentist.
Dr. Summers or Dr. Strider perform in-office implant surgery in a hospital-style operatory, thus optimizing the level of sterility. Inpatient hospital implant surgery is for patients who have special medical or anesthetic needs or for those who need extensive bone grafting from the jaw, hip or tibia.
Why dental implants?
After learning about dental implants, you realize there is a way to improve your quality of life, well being and overall health. When you lose one or several teeth, chances are you have never become fully accustomed to the loss of function or aesthetics that come from tooth loss.
A Swedish scientist and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, developed this concept for oral rehabilitation more than thirty-five years ago. With his pioneering research, Dr. Branemark opened the door to a lifetime of renewed comfort and self-confidence for millions of individuals facing the frustration and embarrassment of tooth loss.
Why would you select dental implants over more traditional types of restorations?
There are several reasons: Why sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge a space? In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention that dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing. Along with this, bone will continue to be lost in the area and can lead to a change in your facial features.
Are you a candidate for implants?
If you are considering implants, your mouth must be examined thoroughly and your medical and dental history reviewed. If your mouth is not ideal for implants, ways of improving outcome, such as bone grafting, may be recommended.
What type of anesthesia is used?
The majority of dental implants and bone grafts can be performed in the office under local anesthesia, with or without general anesthesia.
Do Implants need special care?
Once the implants are in place, they will serve you well for many years if you take care of them and keep your mouth healthy. This means taking the time for good oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and keeping regular appointments with your general dentist to monitor the health of the tissues surrounding the implants.
Major and Minor bone grafting
Over a period of time, the jawbone associated with missing teeth atrophies or is reabsorbed. This often leaves a condition in which there is poor quality and quantity of bone suitable for placement of dental implants. In these situations, most patients are not candidates for placement of dental implants without some type of bone grafting.
Today, we have the ability to grow bone where needed. This not only gives us the opportunity to place implants of proper length and width, it also gives us a chance to restore functionality and esthetic appearance.
Major Bone Grafting
Bone grafting can repair implant sites with inadequate bone structure due to previous extractions, gum disease or injuries. The bone is either obtained from a tissue bank or your own bone is taken from the jaw, hip or tibia (below the knee.) Sinus bone grafts are also performed to replace bone towards the back of the upper jaw. In addition, special membranes may be utilized that dissolve under the gum and protect the bone graft and encourage bone regeneration. This is called guided bone regeneration or guided tissue regeneration.
Sinus lift procedure
The maxillary sinuses lie behind your cheeks and on top of the upper teeth. Sinuses are typically like empty rooms that have nothing in them. Often times, some of the roots of the natural upper teeth extend up into the maxillary sinuses. When these upper teeth are removed, there is often just a thin wall of bone separating the maxillary sinus and the mouth. Dental implants need bone to hold them in place. When the sinus wall is very thin, it is impossible to place dental implants in this bone.
The solution is a sinus graft or sinus lift. The dental implant surgeon enters the sinus from where the upper teeth used to be. The sinus membrane is then lifted upward and donor bone is inserted into the floor of the sinus. After several months of healing, the bone becomes part of the patient’s jaw and dental implants can be inserted and stabilized in this new sinus bone.
The sinus graft makes it possible for many patients to have dental implants when years ago there was no other option other than wearing loose and ill-fitting dentures.
If enough bone between the upper jaw ridge and the bottom of the sinus is available to stabilize the implant well, sinus augmentations and implant placement can sometimes be performed as a single procedure. If not enough bone is available, the Sinus Augmentation will have to be performed first, then the graft will have to mature for several months, depending upon the type of graft material used. Once the graft has matured, the implants can be placed.
In severe cases, the ridge has been reabsorbed extensively and a bone graft is placed to increase ridge height and/or width. Ridge Expansion is a technique used to restore the lost bone dimension when the jaw ridge gets too thin to place conventional implants. In this procedure, the bony ridge of the jaw is expanded by mechanical means. Bone graft material can be placed and matured for a few months before placing the implant.