Dental implants are artificial tooth replacements that were first developed half a century ago by a Swedish scientist named Per-Ingvar Branemark. Implants arose from the patient’s need to secure loose-fitting dentures. Since the advent of the implant, engineering and enhancements to the implant have enabled dentists to expand the implant’s usefulness, including the replacement of missing or lost teeth. Today, implant techniques provide a wide range of tooth replacement solutions including:
- Single Tooth Replacement
- Anterior Replacement
- Posterior Replacement
- Full Upper Replacement
Types of Implants
There are three main types of implants:
- The root implant
- The plate form implant
- The subperiosteal implant
The root implant—by far, the most popular—is the most effective because it mirrors the size and shape of a patient’s natural tooth. This implant is often as strong as the patient’s original tooth. The implant or artificial root is placed into the jawbone under local anesthesia, then allowed to heal and integrate with the bone. Once the healing process is completed and the jawbone is attached to the implant, the patient returns to the dental office where the implant is fitted with the new tooth. This process generally takes anywhere from three to eight months.
The plate form implant is ideal in situations where the jawbone is not wide enough to properly support a root implant. The plate form implant is long and thin, unlike the root implant, and anchors into thin jawbones. It is inserted the same way as a root implant. In certain cases, the plate form implant is immediately fitted with the restoration without waiting for the healing process to run its course.
The subperiosteal implant is used when the jawbone has receded to the point where it can no longer support a permanent implant.
Implant as a Treatment Option
If the missing tooth space has no surrounding teeth, the dentist may decide an implant is the most appropriate treatment choice or option.
The treatment plan for a bridge usually requires two trips to your dentist. Specifically, it involves:
- Numbing the surrounding teeth with a local anesthetic and cleaning plaque or decay.
- Reducing the teeth so that the crowns can be fitted.
- Making a mold or impression of the teeth in order to create a customized permanent impression (this generally takes 1-2 weeks).
- Fitting the patient with a temporary bridge until the permanent bridge is ready for placement.
- Removing the temporary bridge and replacing it with the permanent one.
- Adjusting the bridge for the proper bite and fit and permanently bonding it into the mouth.
Post Implant Care
Although proper oral hygiene is always recommended for maintaining good dental health, it is especially important when a patient has received a dental implant. Bacteria can attack sensitive areas in the mouth when teeth and gums are not properly cleaned, thus causing gums to swell and jaw bones to gradually recede. Recession of the jawbone will weaken implants and eventually make it necessary for the implant to be removed. Patients are advised to visit their dentists at least twice a year to ensure the health of their teeth and implants. Dental implants can last for decades when given proper care.