What is an implant?
A dental implant is a titanium anchor that acts like a tooth root to hold a replacement crown, bridge or denture. Implants are used to replace missing teeth or those that cannot be saved. Originally developed in the ‘60s as a machined titanium screw, dental implants have undergone numerous transformations in their shape, materials, micro-surface texture and more recently, nano-surface texture. Dental implants have revolutionized modern dentistry allowing to replace teeth that have been missing for a long time, hold loose dentures and provide the esthetics and confidence back to any smile.
Why do I want implants?
Bone loss is a natural occurrence following a tooth extraction. Changes the bone undergoes following an extraction will continue to progress over lifetime until there is no more bone left to resorb resulting in severe bone deficiency (atrophy) whilst predisposing to jaw fractures.
The only reason we don’t lose bone around teeth is because every time we speak, chew or touch teeth together, these actions stimulate the jawbone to be maintained intact. This is accomplished through internal bone stimulation by the tooth. Only a dental implant is capable of replicating this form of bone stimulation thus preventing bone resorption. When a denture is placed over a missing tooth area, the pressure of the denture acts on the outer part of the gums and bone, not through inner stimulation, that is why we often see increased bone resorption in those patients. A dental implant is the only currently available device that will prevent bone resorption and allow long-term bone maintenance for ideal facial esthetics.
Besides preserving bone, dental implants also help to save teeth. Prior to using dental implants to replace missing teeth, fixed (non-removable) bridgework was the best available option. This treatment modality required cutting down and shaving down the adjacent teeth to serve as anchors for the bridge. This not only removed the outer protective tooth enamel layer but also resulted in immediate or future need for a root canal over the shaved anchors and predisposition to future decay (cavities). Replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant will not require to shave and weaken the adjacent teeth and the dental implant will never require a root canal or develop decay! Implants also aid to distribute biting/chewing forces over a greater surface area therefore protecting, not weakening, adjacent teeth. This is an ideal treatment option for patients with a history of cavities, failed root canals and periodontally diseased and loose teeth.
What is the success rate of dental implants?
As dental implant surface technology improved over the past few decades, so has their clinical success. Modern dental implants are highly reliable and significantly sturdier than the tooth roots they are replacing. Current studies suggest an implant success in excess of 95%. Today, the dental implant has become the most successful implantable device in dentistry and medicine.