Tooth loss is a common problem that has persisted throughout history. People have been experimenting with solutions for millennia.
The first primitive dental implants, usually made from carved shell or bone, date back to ancient Egypt. And as medical understanding has progressed, so has the science of dental implants.
The first modern implant was produced in 1948, and our understanding of implementing them has made incredible gains since then. Today, placing dental implants is a safe, routine procedure, with options suitable for nearly every patient.
As every patient has different needs, a variety of implants and procedures have been developed. If you are considering dental implants for a new, natural smile, you should familiarize yourself with the options available to you. Starting with the core types of dental implants in use today.
There are Two Main Types of Dental Implants
Despite the improved availability of quality dental care, tooth loss remains an endemic problem. About 120 million people in the United States are missing at least one of their teeth.
Tooth loss can be caused by anything from trauma to the mouth to common gum disease. As every case is unique to the individual, different approaches are sometimes required.
Though the minutiae get a bit more complicated, dental implants can be roughly divided into two types.
An endosteal implant refers to an implant that is set directly into the jawbone beneath the gums.
Made from titanium, the screw-like implants are the most common variety. They are placed in a two-step process.
First, the root of the implant is set into the bone. This is a simple surgery that only requires local anesthesia.
After that, the gums are given between three and six months to heal. The implant is then uncovered and a replacement tooth is affixed.
If an individual’s jawbone is determined to be too short or too narrow for an endosteal implant, they may be recommended a subperiosteal implant. A subperiosteal lies on top of the jawbone, directly under the gums.
The traditional type of subperiosteal implant is the plate form implant. The process of implementing these is similar to the procedure for an endosteal implant.
Under local anesthesia, the plate is surgically placed on top of the jawbone. The gums are then allowed to heal.
Three to six months is usually the average recovery time. In certain instances, however, the time frame can be much shorter. Once the implant is deemed ready, the replacement teeth or crowns are affixed to the plate.
Plate implants are the conventional option, but in cases where the bone is too narrow to fit a plate, custom-made implants are sometimes fabricated.
The implants act as an artificial jawbone, increasing the surface area that a dentist has to work with. Having a custom implant requires an impression of the existing jawbone to be taken.
This is another simple surgical procedure conducted under local anesthesia. Once made, the impression is passed on to a dental laboratory, which then fabricates the implant.
With the custom implant in hand, the procedure for implementing it is effectively the same as implanting a plate.
Are Dental Implants Right for Me?
With all that information, you may be wondering if dental implants are an option open to you. Fortunately, most patients healthy enough to undergo a routine extraction or dental surgery can usually be considered for dental implants.
However, in certain instances there may not be enough bone to support an implant. Even in healthy individuals, the intense pressure exerted by chewing places wears on our jaw bones. Over time, this pressure can cause the bone to weaken and thin.
In these cases, your dentist may suggest a bone augmentation.
What Does Bone Augmentation Entail?
The most common solution is to augment what the bone remains. Often this means performing a bone graft.
One option is to use healthy bone from elsewhere in the body for the procedure. A benefit to this method is that only a small portion of healthy bone is needed, as it will grow over time, regenerating more of the original jaw.
If this is not feasible or simply undesirable, a synthetic graft using a substitute material can also be used.
Often only minor grafting is needed to provide a surface for a dentist to perform a graft. However, it may take a number of months for natural grafts to regenerate enough bone for the procedure.
Are There Dental Implant Alternatives?
Depending on your bone health and your specific needs, your dentist may suggest one of a number of dental implant alternatives. These can be proposed in place of or in addition to a traditional, multi-step dental implant procedure.
These alternatives include:
Immediate Load Dental Implants
Also called same-day implants, immediate load dental implants entail placing a temporary tooth on the same day as your implant surgery.
This option is usually suggested if you do have enough bone to support both the implant and the pressure of the new, temporary tooth.
Mini Dental Implants (MDI)
These are also sometimes called small or narrow diameter implants.
They are much smaller than regular implants, only about the size of a toothpick. Rather than being a complete implant unto themselves, they are usually used to stabilize a lower denture.
The less-invasive techniques used to implement them makes them preferable for patients with little remaining jawbone.
When multiple teeth need to be replaced, this option is sometimes employed in place or replacing an entire row of teeth.
Four implants are placed in the existing bone, and then special abutments are used so that a set of temporary teeth can be set during the same appointment.
These temporary teeth left in while the gums heal from the implant procedure, after which they are replaced by the new, permanent teeth.
Dental Implants Can Give You a Brand New Smile
With the varied procedures and types of dental implants available, the option is open to nearly everyone. If tooth loss has cost your smile its luster, implants may be the right choice for you.
Dental implants are just one of the services offered by Area Dental Clinic. Our team provides routine cleaning and care, partial and complete dentures, Invisalign teeth straightening solutions, oral surgery, and everything in between.
Contact us today to take your first step towards the smile that you have always wanted.