Dental implants have evolved over time and become an ideal replacement for a lost tooth or teeth. The long term success rate of dental implants is well over 95%. What once was a product offered to very few has now become a mainstream dental care service available to most.
Depending on each, unique, individual person, each dental implants case will be personalized. Depending on how many teeth are missing as well as the available quantity and quality of bone present. Below are some of the situations where dental implants can replace lost teeth:
-Loss Of A Single Tooth. At one time, this meant wearing a removable appliance (commonly called a “flipper”) or removing natural tooth structure from surrounding teeth to create a fixed bridge of dental crowns. The flipper tends to be uncomfortable to wear and may affect speech. The 3 unit bridge compromises the support teeth by having them do the work of the lost tooth, and by making them more susceptible to decay. The long term success rate is lowered due to difficulties in cleaning under and around the bridge. A single tooth dental implant, when completed properly, will last a lifetime and function just like a natural tooth.
-Loss Of Multiple Teeth. When missing multiple teeth in a single area, dental implants can be used to form a fixed bridge. The beauty of this arrangement is stability and the ability not to affect the natural teeth in any way.
-Replacing All Teeth. In the past, the only way to restore function was to fabricate a removable denture. With dental implants, dentists have the ability to restore natural function and esthetics.
There are times when other dental procedures are necessary to successfully complete the placement of dental implants. These include:
-Sinus Lift. When you have a large sinus area that impinges on available bone depth, the sinus lift is a common surgical procedure. Sinus lifts are needed to elevate the sinus membrane and thicken a part of the upper jaw with a bone graft. This helps give a dental implant enough bone depth to place it properly in the area you need it. Dental implants need a good quantity of bone along with good, dense quality of bone to succeed. The upper jaw is known to have poorer quantity and quality bone structure as opposed to the lower jaw. The maxillary sinus also plays a role in increasing difficulty in this area. Sinus augmentation can remedy these issues by raising the sinus floor and placing bone grafts in the area to aid in dental implant placement.
-Bone Grafting. When the bone is not 100% adequate for dental implant placement, dentists are able to add to it by performing a dental bone graft. A bone graft is the placement of bone or bone-like materials in the jaw to to build it up. This gives an excellent platform for dental implants. Modification of the bone in this fashion has been shown to improve both appearance and long term success of dental implants. Typically, dentists try to place implants at least as deeply into bone as the crown or tooth will be above the bone. This is called a 1:1 crown to root ratio. This ratio serves as a guide for bone grafting in most situations.
It is quite rare for a dental implant to fail but when it does the dental implant must be removed. Then re evaluated as to why the failure occurred and to see if a new dental implant may be placed. Some of the common reasons for dental implant failure include:
-Failed Integration of Dental Implants - This occurs when the bone does not grow and fuse between the threads of the implant. This fusion of bone to dental implant is called osseointegration. If this does not occur, the dental implants will not function properly,will become uncomfortable, become loose, or come out completely. To reduce this risk, your dental surgeon will evaluate the quality and density of the jaw bone prior to surgery. This will help to only place dental implants in areas where there is a highly predictable success rate. If osseointegration does not take place, the dental implants can be removed, and surgery can be attempted again once the area has fully healed.
-Infection – This is the most common complication of dental implant surgery. The surrounding bone and gums can get infected during the surgical procedure. This can happen due to non-sterile technique, a contaminated implant, poor healing ability(diabetic, smoker, osteoporosis medications), or pre-existing infection. The most likely time for this to occur would be during the surgical placement of the dental implant into the bone. Implant infection can occur after placement as well. Poor hygiene, too much force placed on the implant, or excess cement can cause the support tissue to breakdown. Implant infection is a condition referred to as peri-implantitis. Peri-implantitis is characterized by inflammation or swelling of the tissues surrounding the implant area. Peri-implantitis can also present as a secondary infection later on is a form of periodontal disease that can lead to inflammation, bone loss and implant failure if not treated quickly and properly. Although implant infections are usually caused by the presence of bacteria during or immediately after the oral surgery for the placement of the dental implants, an implant infection can occur months or years after surgery.
-Post Surgical Bleeding - Some bleeding following surgery is normal and should be expected for about 1-2 days. Biting gently on a gauze pad placed over the surgery area for 30 minutes should normally stop the bleeding. Excessive bleeding is not normal and you should notify your dentist immediately if you have concerns about your dental implants.
-Damage To Surrounding Tissues - Dental implant complications related with surgical errors affecting adjacent teeth, nerves or sinus are directly correlated with the experience and skills of the dentist or surgeon. An experienced and skilled implant dentist is able to identify potential problems by examining x-rays or CT scan (computer tomography), design the proper surgical plan for ideal location and angle, and execute it successfully without complications. Even with the most skilled implant dentist there is always a possibility of dental implant complications. The complications can be limited by choosing an implant dentist with the skills and experience necessary to handle any complications if they arise.
-Rejection – An extremely rare complication for dental implants but it has been noted in the research literature. The dental implants can sometimes be viewed as a foreign body.
-Unusable Dental Implants – An implant that has successfully integrated with bone, but the area or extreme angle of placement deem it unrestorable.
Dental implants have been the solution for many. They come with risks but with proper treatment planning from a well qualified dentist they can be a successful tooth replacement for a lifetime of smile.