To be clear: What nature has created, is not easy to replace. An implant – an artificial root – will therefore not be precisely equal to the root of your own tooth or molar, but will nevertheless come as close as possible to most of its characteristics.
If your set of false teeth are not firmly stuck to your jaw, you might consider the possibility of implants. Your dentures will be firm again. Missing teeth or molars can also be replaced by implants. In all these cases you will eat, talk and laugh just like before.
For all those who want to be treated with implants it is important to know that good mouth hygiene is a condition for long lasting success. It is also important to know that smoking can get in the way of successful treatment with implants.
Loss of teeth and molars. You can loose teeth and molars by an accident, dental decay and/or inflammation of the gums and the surrounding strengthening tissue.
Eventually this can lead to the complete lose all your teeth and you will have to turn to dentures. The jaw bone however will shrink steadily, leaving little support and causing the dentures to be only loosely attached.
What is an implant? An implant is an artificial root, placed into the jaw bone. Implants are made of titanium and look like little ‘screws’.
Implants are small, have a diameter varying from 3.3 to 4.8 mm and are between 6 to 16 mm long. They are about the same size as a natural dental root.
What are implants made of?
Among the so-called tissue-friendly materials, titanium is the most appropriate metal for the construction of implants. Therefore titanium is used very frequently in modern medicine. (for example for bone fracture plates, artificial joints and pacemakers). Titanium is completely accepted by the human body; in other words, the body does not reject the strange material.
Implantation in Dentistry
Since a very long time, dentistry has always tried to replace lost teeth as naturally as possible. The final result has to be the recovery at the appearance and function, like chewing, talking and laughing. Nature developed a perfect chewing system that can never be completely replaced by artificial means. An implant in the jaw as a pillar for tooth replacement is the closest one can get to a natural dental root. By now, placing implants has become a reliable treatment method and it normally leads to a predictable good final result.
What is the Purpose of an Implant?
An implant serves as a replacement of a real dental root and offers footing to:
1. A crown (replacement of one single tooth or molar)
If one tooth or molar is missing, for example by an accident, an implant can be placed in the created space. At a later stage a crown is installed onto this implant. This treatment has the major advantage that the adjoining teeth are left untouched and do not need to be ground for the placement of a bridge.
2. A bridge (replacement of several teeth or molars)
If a couple of teeth or molars are missing, a bridge or a partial prosthesis (frame or plate) can be made. For the installment of a bridge it is necessary to grind the teeth down. This is a pity of course, especially when it concerns healthy teeth and molars. Wearing a frame or plate is often considered to be a nuisance and moreover it places a load on the teeth and molars that are still present. Implants can be an attractive alternative. It is possible to make a bridge construction on the implants, just like with natural dental roots.
If all teeth and molars are missing and the existing dentures are not fixed tight enough on the jaw, then it is possible to click the false teeth onto implants. In addition, shrinkage of the jaw is slowed down significantly by the presence of implants.
When can Implants be Applied?
If you have good general health, if you keep your mouth nicely clean and if the jaw is suited for it, then implants can be used. Implants can be used by both young and older people. Your dentist will make a careful assessment and inform you at the possibilities.
In which cases is it impossible to use an Implant?
Sometimes the jaw bone has shrunk to such a degree that it is too narrow and/or too low to place an implant. Examination of the jaw bone with a.o. x-ray pictures will decide this. In these cases additional techniques are needed to allow placing an implant. For patients who use certain medication, or smoke a lot or are not able to keep their natural teeth in a good condition, implantation is not a good idea.
The implantation procedure consists of 5 phases:
- The examination: The examination consists of a medical and a dental part. X-ray pictures can help in determining whether sufficient bone is present.
- The implantation: Placing an implant is a small surgical operation. This operation can usually take place with local anaesthetics. An opening in the gums is made; then a hole is drilled in the bone, fitting the implant perfectly. The operation takes, depending on the number of implants, usually around 30 to 90 minutes. In general the aftereffects like pain and swelling are not so bad. Swelling following the operation, can be limited by cooling the cheek.
- The phase of growing in: It will take ± 6 weeks up to 3 months for the implants to grow into the jaw. The time span depends on a number of factors like bone quantity and quality. During the phase of growing in, the healing progress will be checked regularly. If desired, an emergency solution for esthetic reasons can be made.
- Placement of the implant structure: After the period of growing in, the implant structure is placed. On this structure the teeth replacement (a prosthesis, bridge or crown) can be fitted.
- Aftercare: A good mouth hygiene and regular check-ups (each 3 to 6 months) are essential for a long life span of the implants. Extensive studies and experiences have already shown that implants, if they are properly taken care of, will still function perfectly after decades.
Does an Implant ever fail?
Yes, in about 1.5% (upper jaw) to 5% (lower jaw) of the cases, a failure does occur. The implant does not grow into the jaw or comes loose after some time. In these cases the implant can cause sensations of pain and it will have to be removed.