Dental Implant Overview
This overview explains dental implants, how they work, who they are for and other considerations. If you would like to learn more about dental implants in Kingston, Ontario, please contact us for a free consultation with one of our team.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are a type of artificial replacement for your lost teeth. They consist of a screw-like structure that is placed in the bone, with a structure that is placed over it that appears in your mouth, over which a dental cap (or crown), is placed. Dental implants have been around for nearly 40 years, and although they are considered the most successful way to replace missing and lost teeth, with success rates reaching well over 95 %, it is currently the second most researched branch of clinical dentistry, second only to laser applications.
What are dental implants made of?
Two main parts make up dental implants:
- Fixture: This is the screw like structure that is placed inside the bone to simulate the root of the tooth. They are made from titanium, which is the material used to build airplanes and rockets. Titanium is a biologically acceptable material that causes no side effects. Recently, Zirconium –Which has been used to make dental crowns for more than 10 years, has been recently introduced to be used as a dental implant material, as it is very inert and enhances bone formation. The process is still under undergoing study to assess effectiveness.
- Abutment: This is the superstructure that actually appears inside the mouth, over which the crown is placed. It is usually made from the same material as the fixture (so Titanium for Titanium implants and Zirconium for Zirconium implants)
Who can benefit from dental implants and who can’t?
Patients who have lost one or more teeth due to decay, trauma or other causes are considered candidates to receive dental implants. There is no limit to the number of dental implants that can be placed in your mouth, where a patient who lost all of his teeth can receive dental implants just as well as a patient who lost only one or two teeth.
However, dental implants are not recommended for all cases. Patients who suffer from health problems such as diabetes or gland disorders should not receive implants, as the success rate is decreased significantly. Also, when there is not enough bone material around the jaw (this happens when the tooth is lost for a while and the patient doesn’t seek to replace it), there is no place to insert the implant, and therefore the dentist will suggest other options, such as dental bridges or removable dentures.
How is the implant placed in the mouth?
The process of installing a dental implant involves a number of steps. The most important step is diagnosis, confirming if you are a suitable candidate. This confirmation process involves checking the condition of your mouth by the dentist for oral hygiene, the space available for implant placement, and the condition of the bone and gums. A panoramic x-ray, also known as a 3D scan or cone beam CT, can assess the quality and quantity of bone. Most dentists will also take replicas of your mouth to form what is called a diagnostic cast, to get a clearer view of the state of your mouth.
After diagnosis is complete and the candidate is determined suitable for an implant, the surgical phase begins. The dentist will make a small incision in your gums to expose the bone (another technique exists where this step can be ignored, and the drilling starts directly). This is followed by a sequence of drills used to create an opening in the bone that is slightly smaller than the size of the implant. The implant is then placed in the opening with a little bit of pressure so that it doesn’t move, then stitches are applied to close the opening of the gums (figure 1).
Figure 1. Surgical Phase of implant placement
After 3 to 6 months (depending on the quality of the bone), the tooth replacement phase begins, where the overlying restoration is made. This period allows the bone to heal and attach firmly to the implant. After this period, the dentist will take a replica of your mouth with the implant, and send it to a laboratory, which creates the selected restoration for the dentist, who then places it on the implant placed in your mouth.
Types of restorations that can be placed over the implant vary according to the number of missing teeth and the number of implants that the dentist places in your mouth. If you have only one tooth missing, then you will receive only one implant and only one overlying crown (figure 2).
Figure 2. Single Crown placed over implant
If you have lost more than one tooth, you will receive more than one implant and have your teeth replaced by a dental bridge. The most tricky situation is when all of the teeth are missing, here the dentist will have two options, either place multiple implants and replace the missing teeth with multiple bridges, or, if the bone isn’t strong enough or if the patient chooses so for financial reasons, place only one or two implants in the anterior region, and place a removable denture that is attached to these implants with a button-like structure so that it can be removed at night (this is called implant retained overdenture) (figure 3).
Figure 3. Implant retained overdenture
If I can’t receive implants, what are my options?
If you are not a candidate for implants, the dentist usually will suggest two other types of replacement. One is the dental bridge, which is a fixed type, and the other is the denture, which is a removable type.
What are the dangers of implant placement?
Dental implants carry virtually no risk, and have next to no side effects. In some rare cases, a piece of your bone can break during the process, which poses no threat to your health directly, but will probably cause the implant to fail. The worst thing that can happen is that the implant may not attach to the bone, and the result is that it falls out of your mouth. In that case, the dentist will remove the old implant and replace it with a new one.
For more information and to consult with a dentist in Kingston, Ontario contact McCabe Family Dentistry to see if implants are suitable for you.