Why Dental implants?

Dental Implant IllustrationAre you or a loved one considering dental implants? You likely have a lot of questions, and hopefully we can answer some of them here.

What exactly are dental implants?

When people envision dental implants they’re generally thinking of a new tooth. The tooth component is actually the cap, similar to a normal dental crown with which most people are familiar. The implant portion actually consists of a tiny titanium post that serves the same function as a tooth’s root.

Why are the implants made of titanium?

Titanium is a unique metal in that it is capable of “osseointegration, ” which in simplified terms means it’s capable of actually fusing to bone. This makes the titanium root incredibly stable. In addition to osseointegration, titanium is also the metal of choice in all types of medical implants thanks to its biocompatibility.

Titanium is more resistant to corrosion from bodily fluids than any other metal and is highly durable even when subjected to highly repetitive use. That resistance is another key reason it’s a favorite for hip and knee replacements. Titanium is also highly prized for its “bio-inertness, ” a term that refers to the minimal or non-existent effects a foreign material has on the surrounding tissues.

How are dental implants placed?

An oral surgeon will create a small incision in the gum through which they will drill a small hole in the jaw bone at the desired position to ensure proper placement and angle. Then the implant, which resembles a very small screw with a hole on the top, is screwed into the jaw. The implant itself, once placed, should be below the gum line. The gum incision is then sutured over the implant.

How long does the whole process take?

Traditional implant procedures require a period of approximately five or six months following placement to ensure the implant is fully fused to the jaw bone. However, there are a variety of factors that could affect the length of time osseointegration requires, such as the person’s health, bone density and other factors.

Once your oral surgeon feels the implant is properly fused a second procedure will be performed wherein the implant is once again exposed so an abutment can be screwed onto it. The crown is then attached to this abutment.

If a dental crown has not yet been fabricated your dentist or oral surgeon may place a temporary crown on the abutment, in which case you will have to go back for one last follow-up appointment so they can install your permanent crown.

Are there any faster solutions?

Some dentists, including Archpoint Implant Dentistry, offer mini-implants. These are most often used to provide an anchor for dentures or bridges, which can dramatically improve the wearer’s comfort, ability to chew and overall quality of life.

Mini-implants are generally smaller than 3 mm in diameter. Traditional dental implants are often 4 to 6 mm in diameter. The smaller the implant, the less need there is for a lengthy fusing process.

That being said, most single teeth are too large to be adequately rooted by a mini-implant, although it may be an option for smaller teeth.

Modern titanium dental implants are still a relatively new technology, and this is doubly true for mini-implants. Although there isn’t a lot of substantive research to back it up, some dentists believe the smaller diameter of mini-implants make them structurally weaker for single-tooth applications and unable to stand up to the rigors of everyday chewing that a traditional implant can easily tolerate.

What are the risks of dental implants?

With any surgical procedure there are risks, infection being the most prominent. Because there is drilling into the jaw bone there’s also the risk of damage to surrounding teeth, tissues and the jaw itself, as well as nerve damage. In very rare instances some people with upper jaw implants have had the implant reach the sinus cavity, resulting in sinus problems.

These risks are very minor and most can be relatively easily remedied should they occur. Implant surgery is considered to be one of the safest dental procedures and boasts a history of predictable outcomes.

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