Dental implants have revolutionized the field of cosmetic as well as prosthetic dentistry. Here is a brief overview about the procedure, which is a permanent solution for loss of teeth.
Dental implants, which are considered the best option for replacing missing teeth, are similar to real teeth in appearance. There are two types of dental implants – the osseointegrated and the fibrointegrated. The osseointegrated implant is more popular and widely accepted. The concept of osseointegration is based on the discovery of a Swedish Professor Per-Ingvar Brånemark. He discovered that the cells from which bones develop (called osteoblasts), can grow into rough titanium, which is implanted. The success of such a procedure rests on the link that connects the implant with the living bone. This fusing procedure of titanium with the living bone, is called osseointegration.
Dental Implant Types
As in case of a natural tooth, which has a crown (the visible part of the teeth) above the gum line and a root beneath it; a dental implant also consists of two parts. They are fixtures (usually made of titanium) which are attached to the jawbone and the artificial crown. The crown is fitted to the jawbone fixture, after a stipulated time, which is required for proper anchoring and healing. There are three types of implants, which use different types of fixtures, according to the jawbone anatomy of the patient. They are the root form, plate form and subperiosteal implants.
The root form involves use of a screw-type titanium implant, which resembles the root of a tooth in shape. This type is used, when the jawbone has enough depth and width to accommodate the implant. If the jawbone is too narrow or short for the implant, bone grafting is done. If the jawbone is very narrow and bone grafting cannot be done, then a plate form implant is used. This implant is flat and narrow, and is designed for narrow bones. If the jawbone is not fit for root form or plate form implant, then a subperiosteal implant is used, which is custom-made as per the jawbone structure of the patient. It rests on the jawbone, under the gums.
This procedure involves implantation of a titanium fixture into the jawbone, at the site of the missing teeth. It starts with implantation of the titanium fixture, which needs around four to six months for proper anchoring and healing. In some cases, the healing process may last up to nine months. The procedure culminates with fixing of the prosthetic or artificial crown over the implant.
- The patient has to be healthy and fit to undergo a dental implant procedure, which is done under local anesthesia. The surgical implantation of the fixture is done after opening the gum tissue and exposing the jawbone. Bone grafting is done in some patients, who have insufficient bone structure for implantation.
- A small hole is drilled into the site for placing the implant. The hole can be widened to accommodate the fixture (normally, the root form). Once the implant is placed perfectly, a protective cover screw is placed on the top. The gum tissue is sutured, and it is allowed to heal for a stipulated time period. Usually, it takes around four to six months. This allows the suture to heal and the implant to anchor itself to the bone.
- After the stipulated time span, the protective cover is removed and a special post is attached to the implant in order to support the porcelain crown. Nowadays, zirconium abutments are attached to these posts, to make the new crown translucent and look like natural teeth. Metal-free zirconium implants are also available.
A dental implant procedure is very complex, and hence, it is always better to approach a skilled and experienced dental surgeon for this purpose. As the procedure is done under local anesthesia, some people may experience pain, when the effect of anesthetic subsides. The pain may be accompanied with swelling too. But persistent pain should be reported to the dentist, as it could be due to improper placement of the implant, which requires the patient to undergo dental implant removal. However, dental implant procedure is highly successful; and as per some studies, the success rate is around 95% for lower jaw implants and 90% for upper jaw implants. However, prevention is better than cure. So adequate dental care is necessary to keep your teeth healthy and to avoid complicated dental procedures.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.