Dental Implants (Implantology)

Tooth loss is a common dental problem, and usually takes place due to decay, gum diseases or gingivitis, and at times, due to injury. Earlier, the missing tooth could only be replaced with the help of a bridge or a denture; however, these methods had downsides like further teeth decay and loss, future jaw bone defects, slurring of speech, and embarrassing mishaps while eating, etc. Now, we have a third option in case of missing tooth – dental implant.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants, as the name suggests, are artificial replacements of missing teeth that look, feel, and act the same as your natural teeth. In fact, they are the best solution that dentistry has come up with in the past few decades to restore your teeth, smile and confidence! They are metal posts that act as teeth roots and are surgically placed into your jaw bone beneath the gums. Once this is done, these implants provide a frame to the dentist for mounting permanent replacement teeth.

These implants are usually made of titanium, a metal that is compatible with human body allowing bone to grow around the implant through a process called osseointegration. Other reasons for using titanium are the metal’s strength, non-magnetic properties, and its resistance to salt solutions, acids and oxygen (source: www.colgate.com).

Types of Dental implants

The ADA (American Dental Association) considers and recommends two types of implants as safe:

  • Endosteal/Endosseous Implants: These implants are usually done in two stages. First, the implants that look like screws or nails are placed surgically directly into the jawbone. Then in the second stage, a post is attached to the implant after the surrounding gum tissue heals. Once the implants are securely placed, artificial teeth (or single tooth, as the case may be) are mounted to the post, either one by one, or as a bridge or denture. These types of implants require the bone to be deep and wide enough so that the implant has a strong foundation.
  • Subperiosteal Implants: These implants resemble a metal frame which is attached to the jaw bone below the gums and is used when the bone has been wasted away and there is very little jaw structure left. Once the gums heal and the frame becomes fixed, artificial teeth are mounted to the frame’s protruding posts.

There are some other forms of implants as well like Transosseous implants and Ramus-frame implants, etc. and your dentist is the best person to suggest which type of implants you should go for.

Who can get an Dental Implant?

Generally speaking, any healthy person, regardless of age, can get a dental implant provided they have disease-free gums and sufficient bone to hold the implants. Of course, implants require surgical procedures and one need to be able to take care of oneself, maintain oral hygiene and be able to visit the dentist as required. However, in case a person suffers from any uncontrolled or untreated chronic disorders like diabetes, heart problems, or those who have undergone radiation therapy in the head and neck area need to be evaluated for their eligibility on a case by case basis. Smoking or use of tobacco in any other form may also come in the way of successful implant and can increase the risk of infection as well as reduce the pace of healing.

Getting a Dental Implant and Caring for it

Usually, the procedure of placing implants is done under local anesthesia and as such, is not very painful. There may be a slight soreness around the area which can be easily treated with pain medication. Antibiotics are not necessary and are prescribed by your doctor only when there is an infection post procedure.

Dental implants have a high success rate, as much as 98%, and usually last a life time. Following are some tips to increase your chances of success:

  • Quit smoking and alcohol: Smoking, as we all know, is extremely injurious to health and its best to avoid smoking and alcohol intake for a few weeks post surgery to fasten the healing process.
  • Maintain Oral Hygiene: Implants require daily care, just like your natural teeth. Brushing and flossing twice a day ensures an infection and plaque free mouth.
  • Stick to soft and non-sticky foods: While recovering post surgery, avoid sticky and hard food so that they don’t pull at your implants or put undue pressure on them.

Be sure to discuss all aspects of getting the implant with your dentist before you actually go for it. You must share information regarding your general health condition with the doctor in order to allow him/her to make an informed decision on whether you should go for an implant or not and which type of implant is best suited to you.