Dental implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat most foods and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. A natural tooth consists of the crown and the root. The crown is the visible portion that is covered with white enamel. The root is embedded in the jawbone and supports the crown. The root is the part of the tooth that is replaced by an implant. The implants themselves are small titanium posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal anchors act as tooth root substitutes.
Titanium is a bio-compatible metal which is strong and durable. Titanium has a unique property that allows it to fuse directly to the bone, a process known as osseointegration. Professor Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish researcher, discovered osseointegration in the 1960’s. Osseointegration occurs when bone cells attach themselves directly to the titanium surface, essentially locking the implant into the jawbone.
Commonly, there are three components to what is described as an implant: the implant fixture itself (inserted in the bone), the abutment which connects the implant fixture to the third part which is the crown or prosthesis.
Osseointegrated implants can be used to support prosthetic tooth replacements of various designs and functionality. Implants can replace a single missing tooth or a full arch of teeth (all the teeth in the upper or lower jaw). Dental implants also help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.
If, like many others, you feel implant dentistry is the choice for you, we ask that you undergo a thorough and complete dental/radiographic examination and health history assessment. During a consultation appointment, Dr. Torres-Melendez will address your specific needs and considerations.
A general review of your x-rays will allow Dr. Torres-Melendez to evaluate other teeth or areas of the jawbones that require treatment. Your questions and concerns are important to us and our team will work closely with you to assist in making your treatment plan a success.
We will also discuss an estimate of fees and your insurance reimbursement. There are many types of insurance plans, and coverage for implants is varied. We will be happy to assist you in obtaining any benefits to which you may be entitled.
The Surgical Procedure
For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within your jawbone by the surgeon/periodontist. Healing time following surgery varies from person to person and is based on a variety of factors, such as hardness of the bone. In some cases, implants may be restored immediately after they are placed.
For the first three to six months following the surgery, dental implants are beneath the surface of the gums while osseointegration takes place. You should be able to wear a temporary prosthesis (replacement) and eat a soft diet at this time.
After the implant has osseointegrated, the second phase begins. The surgeon/periodontist will uncover the implants and attach a small healing collar. After two to three weeks of soft tissue healing, Dr. Torres-Melendez will be able to start making your final prosthesis. A final impression must be made. Then abutments or attachments can be connected to the implants. The teeth replacements are then made over the abutments or attachments. The entire procedure usually takes six to eight months. Most patients do not experience any disruption in their daily routine.
What Types of Prosthesis are Available?
A single prosthesis (crown) is used to replace one missing tooth – each prosthetic tooth attaches to its own implant. A partial prosthesis (fixed bridge) can replace two or more teeth and may require only two or three implants. A complete dental prosthesis (fixed bridge) replaces all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw. The number of implants varies depending upon which type of complete prosthesis (removable or fixed) is recommended. A removable prosthesis (overdenture) attaches to a bar or ball in socket attachments, whereas a fixed prosthesis is permanent and removable only by a professional.
Dr. Torres-Melendez has received extensive training in the science of dental implants. Through continuing education, Dr. Torres-Melendez is abreast of the most current information and developments in implant dentistry.
What is the Overall Success rate for Dental Implants?
Dental implants do not have a 100% success rate. However, the success rates are well above 90% for most implant patients. Long term success rates are in the high 90% range and are improving. When a dental implant has not successfully integrated, it may need to be removed. A replacement implant can be placed but it may require some months of healing time and possibly bone augmentation.