What is a dental implant?
Dental implants are artificial replacements for teeth that may have been lost due to large cavities, a fall, or gum disease.
Essentially, these dental implants are designed to look exactly like the rest of your teeth (like a bionic tooth 😜).
This may sound simple to achieve, but it really isn’t! Implant dentistry is a highly specialized field of dentistry and it takes a lot of skill, knowledge and planning in order to ensure that the implant fits seamlessly into your mouth.
Essentially, a dental implant is made out of 3 things:
- A screw (also known as a fixture)
- A connective bit (also known as the abutment)
- The implant crown
Made out of titanium alloy, this part of the implant goes directly into your jawbone and essentially replaces the missing tooth root. Once placed into your bone, it needs to fuse to your bone in a process called osseointegration.
This metal bit locks into the screw and connects to the implant crown; thus supporting the crown and making sure that the implant crown is locked in tightly with the screw.
The part of the implant that is designed to look like your natural teeth is called the crown. Generally, crowns are made out of porcelain fused to metal, although there are zirconia alternatives as well. Of course, they are made in a colour that should match the rest of your teeth perfectly.
What are some of the benefits of having dental implants?
Maintain facial structure
In the unfortunate event that you lose some teeth, the bone that surrounds the tooth root starts to resorb and melt away. If this is not addressed properly with a dental implant, you might risk your jaw bone eventually shrinking and the facial features might appear “collapsed”.
The other problem is that the adjacent remaining teeth can start to tilt into the missing tooth space. Both jaws are now less supported, and this can lead to loss of lower facial height. Your facial features can start changing!
With the support of dental implants, you’ll be able to retain the structural integrity of your jawbone as well as keep a nice and young-looking smile! :)
Preserve your surrounding teeth
In the past before implant dentistry was really developed, dentists would use bridges in order to replace missing teeth. That would sometimes require the cutting of the adjacent teeth to support the missing tooth or teeth. With a dental implant, the surrounding teeth do not need to be cut and remain as an independent unit.
The other option is to wear a denture but partial dentures would need to be hooked to the adjacent teeth. Sometimes this increased load on the teeth can caused them to be rocked out faster.😭 So a dental implant prevents the adjacent teeth from eventually loosening from the pressure and falling off more quickly than they would have.
Maintain a beautiful, natural-looking smile
More than its structural importance to your oral health, dental implants were also created to look and feel precisely like your natural teeth – all the while preserving the bone and gum tissue around it. It’s really important that your dentist does a treatment plan with precision to make your dental implant fit in impeccably. So no one knows it’s not a real tooth!
They can last a long time
Dental implants are made out of medical-grade titanium, and some brands include zirconium mixed with titanium which males the dental implant extremely hardy. These materials cannot corrode and decay with time. Essentially, an implant done correctly has a survival rate of 96.4% after 10 years (as this large scale scientific paper shows). https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0300571219300491
Am I a good candidate for dental implants?
Implant dentistry has progressed to the point that almost anyone can get a dental implant – with a a few caveats. During your consultation, factors that will be looked at include:
- The density and quality of the bone you have at the implant site
- How many implants you require and whether your bone structure support it
- Whether or not you will require other procedures to be done beforehand to prepare you for implants
Using a CT scan, we are now able to take a precise scan of your jaw bone which shows us the volume, shape and existing quality of your jaw bone.
Depending on what we find in the scan, sometimes a bone graft is also needed if you do not have enough bone around the target implant area.
There are also some groups of patients that may have systemic factors working against them when it comes to getting implants.
In order to prevent your implant from failing, it is imperative that you have good gum health. If you are suffering from a gum-related disease like gingivitis or periodontitis, this could mean that the infection might spread to the implant and cause it to fail. It is important that all gum related diseases are fully treated before an implant is even considered.
Habitual smokers do not make good candidates for dental implants as cigarette smoke can affect the blood flow to the gums, which drastically slows down the gum’s ability to heal itself post-surgery. Smoking also caused suppressed the immune system. A good immune system is essential for post-surgical healing! Many studies have shown that smokers have a 10% to 20% increase in the chance of implant failure as compared to non-smokers!
All is not lost though – the number of cigarettes smoked is directly proportional to the chance of failure. So if you can reduce the number of cigarettes smoked or refrain from smoking pre and post surgery…. that will decrease the chance of implant failure!
Weak or poor quality bone
This generally affects elderly patients –conditions like osteoporosis may cause a drop in bone volume and density and this inadvertently affects the jaw bone. Also, older patients tend to have more fragile and brittle bones, which have a higher risk of fracturing during surgery. This has to be considered in the pre-implant placement process and discussed with you.
Pre-existing medical conditions & medication
If you have a condition that jeopardizes your body’s ability to heal, then the risk of implant failure becomes much higher. Such conditions include autoimmune diseases, diabetes and long term steroid use. I always ensure that my patients disclose their full medical history to me, (long medical history checklist alert) including what medicine they are currently taking before I decide whether or not they are suitable for dental implant surgery.
There are a large number of factors that go into determining whether or not implants are suitable for you; if you are interested in getting a dental implant, visit a periodontist, oral surgeon or dentist for a consultation before making that decision!