Understanding Dental Implants

If you have missing teeth, you want a dental procedure that results in a look and feel that is as close to your natural teeth as possible. Today, thanks to huge advances in dentistry, one consideration you should explore with your dentist is dental implants.

It wasn’t all that long ago that the go-to solution for gaps in your mouth was dentures, an alternative that left many patients saying they’d rather do without teeth at all. And while it’s true that modern dentures are much more comfortable than those of yesteryear, they can still be difficult to get used to at best and painful and uncomfortable at worst.

Dentures carved from hippopotamus ivory may have been fine for George Washington, but our first President was a tough old bird who was pretty used to being uncomfortable. His dentures were ill fitting, required constant attention and, at different points in his life, included cow and horse teeth and heavy springs fashioned into his dental paraphernalia.

Better Fitting & Looking

Of course, that was several hundred years ago, yet while giant strides have been made in the evolution of dentures, you just don’t meet that many people who say they’re happy with theirs. Modern-day technology enables dentists to place better fitting and better-looking dentures in a patient’s mouth. But there still remains a problem with dentures slipping and providing little comfort.

Today, we’ve got dental implants, which depending on the skill of the dentist, the quality (and quantity) of bone available in the jaw, and the oral hygiene of the patient — can result in a success rate hovering around 95 percent. And implants are very strong, primarily because of the method in which they are placed in the mouth. There’s no slippage, which means you can eat meals comfortably and speak with confidence.

Most dental implants consist of a titanium screw that resembles the root of a tooth. These titanium “roots,” placed within the bone of the jaw, support restorations that look exactly like the tooth or group of teeth that are missing. These dental implants eventually fuse with the bone, becoming strong enough to be used for talking and chewing, in addition to supporting crowns, adjacent bridges or dentures.

After a consultation with your dentist, and prior to surgery for dental implants, X-rays are taken, the shape of the jaw and its dimensions are recorded and, in some cases, a CT scan is performed. A pilot hole is often drilled into the jaw, using larger drill bits until the desired size is obtained.

The screw to be implanted in the jawbone is inserted at a precise torque and then the implant is left to heal for between two to six months before the prosthetic tooth or crown is attached. In some cases, a dental implant can be performed in a single procedure, which includes both the implant and attachment of the new tooth or crown.

The important thing is to make sure the bone has time to grow around the “foreign” implant before the final restoration is placed on top of it. If an implant is loaded too quickly, the implant might move, thus resulting in a failed surgery.

Your top concern should be to shop around for a good periodontist who has successfully performed hundreds of these procedures. These specialists have special knowledge, education, training, and facilities to give you new teeth that look real and feel like your own.

Remember that the success rate of dental implants is nearly 100 percent, and the procedure is considered an excellent option for those who find it necessary to replace some of their teeth. So if you or a loved one might benefit from this procedure, do your homework. Find a good dentist.

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