By Jamie A. Warren, DMD, MD
More than 178 million Americans are missing at least one permanent tooth and over 35 million Americans have lost all of their teeth. If you happen to find yourself in this statistic, you may be wondering what options you have for tooth replacement. Missing teeth can affect a person’s ability to chew food properly, can interfere with alignment of adjacent teeth and adversely impact one’s self- confidence and quality of life. For many, a dental implant restoration has become the solution to these problems. Dental implants are useful for replacing missing permanent teeth or simply to provide increased retention for a removable denture. When considering the different treatment options available for tooth replacement, dental implants are frequently the treatment of choice.
Prior to the mid-1980’s, the only legitimate options available for tooth replacement were removable dentures or a fixed bridge. Removable dentures rest on the gum tissue, resulting in instability and poor retention. When preparing a fixed bridge, tooth structure must be removed from the adjacent healthy teeth in order to anchor the fixture properly. This will compromise the health of these teeth and also creates a food trap which presents an obstacle to oral hygiene measures. Luckily, patients do not have to settle for these options anymore. Clinical research and outcomes have powered implant technology into the forefront of restorative dentistry. With the advent of the dental implant as we know it today, millions of implants have been successfully placed, giving patients and treatment providers a better choice.
Before the placement of a dental implant, it’s important to understand that a team approach is a necessity when developing and executing the plan to completion. This team usually consists of the patient, restorative dentist, and an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. Once a treatment plan is generated and accepted by the patient, the treatment can then be initiated. In some cases, treatment may begin with a bone grafting procedure if the quantity of available bone is insufficient. Once a sufficient amount of jaw bone has been ensured, the oral and maxillofacial surgeon will place a titanium post or fixture into the jaw bone. This initial procedure generally takes less than one hour depending on how many implants are being placed. Over the next 10-16 weeks, this post will anchor to the jaw by fusing to the surrounding bone, and hence, become the foundation of the implant restoration. Once integration is complete, the abutment is then connected to the implant post and this will protrude from the gum line and into the mouth. At this point, your restorative dentist will take an impression of this area and a crown is fabricated from this. The crown will be secured to the abutment and this will complete the restorative process.
One of the primary concerns for most patients is what to expect while undergoing this treatment process. Aside from some soreness and mild swelling, the post-implant recovery process is mostly benign. My patients will typically take only one day off from work and will require very little modification of their day to day routine. A prescription for a mild pain reliever is usually given along with an antibiotic to help lower the risk of infection. I will ask my patients to try and avoid chewing food in this area for a few days to help give the gum tissue plenty of time to heal. It is also important to keep the implant site clean to help promote an ideal healing environment. I schedule a follow-up appointment in 1-2 weeks to check the healing and to remove any sutures at that time. Over the next few weeks, the implant will continue to integrate to the bone, and once complete, the restorative process can then be finished.
The overall success rate for the placement of a dental implant is around 95%. This high success rate is directly dependent upon operator skill, the quality and quantity of available bone, the patient’s compliance with oral hygiene and showing up to their regular dental check-up appointments. The dental implant needs to be cared for just like a natural tooth. It should be brushed and flossed daily and care should be taken to avoid trauma to this area.
Whether you get a dental implant as a replacement for missing teeth or simply as a way to secure and provide retention for removable dentures, both can have a significant improvement on a person’s quality of life. The benefits are countless…dental implants all but eliminate the daily frustrations that patients face when missing teeth or when dealing with an ill-fitting denture. Patients can enjoy a more well-rounded diet, socialize without the fear of denture slippage, and have an improved physical appearance. This leads to greater self-confidence and ultimately a better life. If you feel like this is something that you could benefit from, you owe it to yourself to contact your dentist or oral surgeon for more information.
Image from: www.mekarilaserdentistry.com
Dr. Jamie Warren is a native of Louisville, KY and attended Saint Xavier High School and received his undergraduate degree at Bellarmine University. He completed his dental school, medical school, and oral & maxillofacial surgery residency at the University of Louisville. He is board certified and practices at Kentuckiana Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery with three convenient office locations near the Summit Shopping Center, Jewish Hospital downtown, and Mt. Washington, KY. For more information, about Kentuckiana Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery check out www.kyoms.com.