Posts for tag: dental implants
Americans today can expect to have a longer lifespan than ever before. And, as our population ages, our concern is no longer just longevity… it becomes, in addition, the quality of life. These days, the task of helping an older person — perhaps a parent, relative, or friend — to maintain a good quality of life often falls to adult children or others in the extended family. These caregivers have a crucial role in deciding how best to provide for an older person's care.
Eating a healthful diet, getting moderate exercise and having an invigorating social life are factors that can improve quality of life for a person of any age. But we would propose adding one more item: keeping a healthy smile. By age 74, about one in four people have lost all of their permanent teeth. Many more have failing teeth, or only a few teeth remaining. According to actuarial tables, these folks can expect to live, on average, to age 86 — and some will live much longer. That's a long time to go without good replacement teeth.
The Old School: Bridges and Dentures
What's the best method of tooth replacement? The answer depends on several factors. If just a small number of teeth are missing, the best options available are a fixed bridge (also called a fixed partial denture) or a dental implant. If most or all teeth are failing or lost, either complete or partial removable dentures, or implants, may be considered. We'll come back to implants later, but let's look at other methods first.
The dental bridge is a traditional method of closing a gap in your smile — but it has some drawbacks. It requires crowning or “capping” healthy teeth on either side of the gap, so they can be used to anchor a series of prosthetic teeth. This means a significant amount of tooth material must be removed from “good” teeth, which may leave them more susceptible to decay. Root canal treatment may also be required. A bridge can make gum disease more likely, and it is generally expected to need replacement in about ten years.
Removable dentures, both complete and partial, have been around even longer than bridges — in fact, they go back centuries. Denture problems, too, are legendary: They include problems with chewing and speaking, unpleasant smells and tastes, the inability to eat many favorite foods, and the tendency of dentures to become loose and ill-fitting over time. Many of these problems force a person to make compromises in their lifestyle; the last one, however, points to a serious flaw with dentures.
When teeth are lost, the underlying bone in the jaw begins to be resorbed (melted away) by the body's natural processes. This causes the jawbone to become weaker — and, as support for the facial features is lost, it can result in the appearance of premature aging. Dentures don't stop bone loss, in fact, they accelerate it. When dentures stop fitting properly, it's evidence of the process of bone loss at work.
A Modern Solution: Dental Implants
There's a great way to stop bone loss and restore teeth to full function: the dental implant. Whether it's a single tooth or an entire set of teeth that are missing, dental implants are the new gold standard for tooth replacement. Because of the way they become fused with the living bone tissue of the jaw, implants stop bone loss form occurring. They “feel” and function like natural teeth — and they can be almost impossible to tell from the real thing.
A single missing tooth can be replaced by one dental implant, where a bridge would require a minimum of three prosthetic teeth (one for the missing tooth, and two for the supports). On the other hand, an entire arch (top or bottom row) of replacement teeth can be anchored by just four to six implants. And, with regular care, implants can last a lifetime.
So if you're helping someone choose between different methods of tooth replacement, be sure to consider the advantages of dental implants. It's an investment in quality — both the quality of the implant itself, and the enhanced quality of life it provides. If you would like more information, or wish to schedule a consultation, please call our office. You can learn more in the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Dental Implants” and “Removable Full Dentures.”
Maybe you've seen some marketing material for dental implants featuring smiling, silver-haired seniors. Perhaps this made you think that implants are a tooth replacement system that's primarily intended for older adults. If so, let's change that impression right now: Dental implants are suitable for almost all adults, not just older folks!
Today's best option for tooth replacement, implants can help most people who suffer from the problem of missing or failing permanent teeth. (In children, however, where the jaw is still growing, implants aren't generally used.) Of course, it is our goal as dentists to preserve as many of the natural teeth as possible. But when that isn't possible, implants offer the best option for tooth replacement.
The Implant System
What makes the dental implant system such a great option for replacing lost teeth? Let's start with the implant itself. This small, screw-shaped device is made of titanium metal, which has a unique property: When placed in the jaw, in a minor surgical procedure, it becomes fused with the living bone tissue. This provides a solid anchor for the visible part of the replacement tooth, the crown, which is attached to the implant by a connecting piece called an abutment.
Because the implant is securely fixed in the jaw, it provides the replacement tooth with a firm foundation that won't come loose — and it doesn't depend on other teeth for support, like bridges do. It also stops the process of bone loss, which occurs in the area of the jaw where a missing tooth was formerly located. The erosion of bone, which begins as soon as a tooth is lost, can create the appearance of premature aging, and may eventually lead to further dental problems.
Why You May Need Implants
Older folks aren't the only ones who experience tooth loss; younger people suffer from this problem too. Accidents and injuries are one cause, whether they are sports-related, or result from habits like biting pencils or grinding teeth. Lifestyle may be another factor. Poor nutrition, excessive consumption of sugary substances (including certain “sports” and “energy” drinks), and the lack of proper dental hygiene and professional care can allow moderate problems to get much worse.
A major cause of tooth loss is disease, such as tooth decay or periodontal disease. These can be a problem at any age. But a few conditions may cause serious dental problems in younger people — bulimia, for example. When stomach acids enter the mouth, they can rapidly erode the tooth enamel. Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) can create similar problems.
When Should You Get Implants?
Preserving your natural teeth whenever possible is a major goal of modern dentistry. But when teeth can't be saved, it's time to consider implants. While they are initially more expensive than more traditional tooth replacement methods (like bridges or removable dentures), they can last for the rest of your life with only routine care. That's something no other method can claim, and it makes them a great value, especially for younger people. Plus, they feel completely natural and look great.
Dental implants are now the gold standard for tooth replacement. Why? Because not only do they offer the longest-lasting method of restoring missing teeth, but they also help mitigate one of the greatest problems associated with tooth loss — the loss of underlying bone structure. While standard dental implants have been around since the 1970s, mini-implants are a smaller version of the same technology that have recently come into their own. Here are a few things you should know about them.
Mini-implants rely on the same structure and principles as their larger relatives.
Like standard implants, mini-implants are screw-shaped devices made of titanium which are set into the bone of the jaw. Put in place permanently, they become fixed to the bone itself, which grows around and fuses to the implant. Or, they can be used as temporary anchors for the attachment of other dental work.
Mini-implants are a great option for attaching lower overdentures.
Overdentures (implant-retained dentures) are now considered the standard of care for people who have lost all of their teeth in one or both jaws. But the undesired movement of lower dentures has been a perennial problem for many denture wearers. One key use of mini-implants is to anchor overdentures to the lower jaw. Just two mini-implants provide the stability needed to attach a set of lower dentures sturdily, giving the denture wearer increased dental function — and a restored sense of confidence.
Mini-implants offer some real benefits in orthodontics.
TADS (Temporary Anchorage Devices), another type of mini-implants, are finding increasing use alongside of orthodontic appliances (braces). Braces move teeth by placing small forces on them, which are transmitted by a wire. The wire must be anchored at a “fixed” point: usually, other teeth; but it may cause these teeth to move as well! TADS offer an anchorage point that's truly immovable. They help to speed up orthodontic treatment, and give more accurate control as well.
Placing mini-implants is a relatively simple process.
It's an office procedure done by an experienced clinician, normally under local anesthesia. Most patients tolerate the procedure very well, experiencing only minor discomfort. In some cases, a single two-hour visit is all that's needed for implant placement, and the patient can go home and eat a steak afterward!
Mini-implants may be more economical than you think.
These smaller cousins of standard implants are often easier to place. They save treatment time, and, if you're a denture wearer, they may be compatible with your existing dentures. If your dental situation could benefit from using mini-implants, you should give them serious consideration.
If you would like more information about mini-implants, please contact us or schedule an appointment for a consultation. You can also learn more about this topic by reading the Dear Doctor magazine articles “Implant Overdentures for the Lower Jaw,” “The Great Mini-Implant,” and “What are TADS?”
Of all the of amazing procedures in today's dentistry, surgery that causes new bone to grow — in places where it had previously been lost — is high on the list of the most extraordinary. (When bone is lost or resorbed, it is broken down into its mineral components, which are dissolved into the bloodstream. Resorption of tooth-supporting bone often takes place after teeth are lost.) Dental techniques that cause new bone growth are important because a certain amount of bone is needed to replace lost teeth with dental implants.
Today's dental implants themselves are an amazing innovation. Implants consist of a replacement for the tooth's root, usually made of a metal called titanium. A replacement for the crown, the part of the tooth that is visible above the gums, is attached to the titanium root. Titanium has the remarkable quality of being able to fuse with the bone in which it is anchored. This process, first discovered in the 1950s, is called osseointegration.
In the case of missing upper back teeth, many people who wanted dental implants in the past were told that they did not have enough bone to anchor the implants and that they had to get removable dentures instead.
But now a new surgery called maxillary sinus augmentation can cause your body to regenerate bone where it was lost and is needed to anchor dental implants.
Bone in the upper jaw or maxilla usually supports your upper back teeth. Inside the maxilla, on either side of your upper jaw, are air spaces in the bone, which are lined with a membrane. These spaces, called the maxillary sinuses, are generally shaped like pyramids; but their shape and size is different in each person. The new surgical procedures involve lifting up the sinus membrane in the area where bone is needed and filling the space thus created with a bone grafting material. Your body then creates new bone to fill the space. This usually takes about six months. If you have almost enough bone to stabilize the implants, they can be placed simultaneously with the graft, thus saving time and avoiding a second surgical procedure.
All grafting materials used today are approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and must be prepared according to their guidelines. They are specially treated to render them completely safe for human use.
After the surgery there is usually no more than mild to moderate swelling and some discomfort, about the same as having a tooth removed.
If you are missing upper back teeth, contact us to schedule an appointment to evaluate your upper jaw. You can also learn more about this procedure by reading the Dear Doctor magazine article “Sinus Surgery.”
Worldwide it is generally accepted that the best method for permanently replacing a missing tooth is with a dental implant. However, one fact that can affect the timing of placement of dental implants is that the person should be fully mature. In this case, it means that growth is complete, in particular the jawbones have completed growing. And while we are sensitive to teens who may beg for a dental implant to replace a missing, damaged or traumatized tooth, parents or caregivers should know that research and experience have shown that it is better to wait.
The main reason it is best to wait is because natural teeth grow and move with the jaws as they mature whereas implants don't. Natural teeth change positions and move with the jaws as the jaws grow, implants don't. They are fused to the bone in one position and as the jawbone grows, they get left behind and appear to sink as the adjacent teeth and jawbone grow in harmony.
Although it is not really possible to determine exactly when a person has finished growing, it is generally best to wait until the jaw is fully matured and developed. However, we are the most qualified, along with our orthodontic colleagues to “guesstimate” based on family history, age and genetics. Specialized radiographs (x-rays) of the skull and jaws may also be helpful in determining the timing of jaw growth completion and when implants can be placed.
Dental implants are a permanent solution to a dental problem and thus should not be used until all growth is complete. Think about it. Your young child gets a beautifully restored smile through a dental implant...and for a year or two it looks fantastic. However, as your child's jaws continue to grow, everyone begins to notice gaps between the implant and adjacent teeth. So it makes sense to avoid this eventuality; by just waiting until late teens when beautifully restored crowns on properly positioned dental implants should last for many many years.