A dental implant is an artificial tooth root. It is placed in the jawbone where there used to be a live tooth root and it holds an acrylic or porcelain tooth to replace a lost tooth.
This implant procedure is a superior alternative to dentures and bridges. It is a permanent solution for missing teeth and also replaces the missing root. The two main benefits are that:
- Implants maintain the teeth alignment and fill the gap from the lost tooth.
- Implants maintain the thickness of the jawbone, which would otherwise shrink away because of the missing tooth root.
Am I a good candidate for dental implants?
Dental implants generally have about a 95% success rate. Most people have enough bone density and dimensions for the cylindrical implant. However if you have a particularly narrow or short jawbone, or bone with low density, Dr. Greenhalgh could possibly use another type of implant. That would be in individual decision that you can discuss with him.
In some cases, a bone graft can be done to add bone volume sufficient to support an implant.
Some conditions will reduce your chances of success with dental implants. Dr. Greenhalgh would need to determine that you have no gum disease. You would also need to be free of any health condition which would interfere with healing, such as an auto-immune disease or uncontrolled diabetes. Smoking can also reduce your chances of success.
What is the dental implant procedure like?
There are two main steps:
- Placing the implant root under the gum (“placement”). This is usually done by a specialist, and you can either have it numbed, or you can be asleep. Most of these procedures are easier than you may imagine.
- Dr. Greenhalgh begins to build on the implant. It is rare that you will need to be numbed for this part of the procedure as it is usually very simple and painless.
The procedure for placing the implant is a dental surgery, but recovery is short and simple. An over-the-counter painkiller for a couple of days takes care of any discomfort.
How long do dental implants last?
With good dental care, implants can last indefinitely. The tooth or teeth anchored by the implant must be brushed and flossed daily along with your natural teeth, and you need to come for regular check-ups and professional tooth cleanings by our highly-skilled hygienist. Dr. Greenhalgh will also want to check on your implant two to four times a year depending on the complexity of what you had attached to your implants.
The important thing is to prevent any gum disease. If you were to neglect your dental hygiene, bacteria could spread down between the teeth and gums and cause damage around the implant root attached under the gum. They could then spread into the jawbone itself, dissolving the bone around the implant and loosening it. This is easy to avoid however, by daily removal of bacteria and food particles.
Why are implants made from titanium?
Bone has a good affinity with titanium and will grow in close around the implant, anchoring it firmly. The implant has little grooves running around it to facilitate this close-in growth. The first implants were made of pure titanium but later it was found that a titanium alloy has greater tensile strength and better resistance to fracture.
Are dental implants a new procedure?
Use of titanium is relatively new but the concept of dental implants is ancient. Archaeologists have found Egyptian mummies with gold wire implants and Mayan bodies with tooth-shaped shells in their jawbones, with bone growth securing them in place. Other pre-Columbian skeletons have been found with implants of semi-precious stones. In the Middle East, implants made of ivory have been found in skeletal remains and a Roman soldier was found with an iron implant.
In the 1950s, a Swedish professor doing research discovered that titanium in rabbit bones became so well surrounded by bone tissue that it could not be removed. Because he knew that many people were edentulous (without any teeth), he went on to experiment with titanium implants for holding artificial teeth and found it to be highly effective. This bone growth around the titanium implant is called osseointegration.
If you are missing some teeth, dental implants could be used as part of a smile makeover, where other defects could be corrected as well as the missing teeth.
Schedule a personal consultation with Dr. Greenhalgh to learn more about dental implants. Call us at 303-988-9060 today for service in Lakewood, Denver and other nearby communities.