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Dental Implants: Procedure & Benefits

Dental implants or teeth implants are aesthetic, natural-looking alternatives to missing teeth that restore complete form, function, and aesthetics to the oral cavity. Often due to age and dental decay, teeth fall off or have to be removed. In such cases, the patient is left with aesthetic and functional issues of missing teeth. While there are different treatments to restore them, like dentures, bridges, etc., the most effective, aesthetic, and functional treatments are dental implants. 

 

What are the benefits of dental implant treatment?

Dental implant treatment is a lengthy process- it generally takes at least 3-6 months to complete. Therefore, patients need to be committed to the treatment, as while the treatment doesn’t provide any benefits instantaneously, its long-term benefits outweigh this. The benefits of dental implants are:

  • Dental implants improve the appearance of the patient’s face and smile. They feel like natural teeth as they completely fuse with the bone.
  • Implants do not move or slip like dentures, so they provide clear speech and help the patient chew their food easily.
  • As they are fixed, dental implants provide better comfort to the patient. Most patients are unable to differentiate between implants and their natural teeth once they get used to them.
  • Many patients experience aesthetic issues like wrinkled and sagging skin, depressed lips, etc., due to missing teeth. Implants improve their self-esteem by resolving such issues.
  • Implants prevent migration of the patient’s remaining teeth and make it easier to maintain oral hygiene for improved oral health.
  • With proper oral hygiene maintenance, dental implants can last for more than 10-15 years without the need for replacement.

 

Why is dental implant treatment performed?

Dental implants are tooth replacements placed directly in the jaw bone. They are made from biocompatible alloys that fully integrate with the patient’s jaws. Dental implants do not move, slip, make noise or cause any bone or tissue damage after healing. Generally, dental implants are only performed if the patient:

  • has a missing permanent tooth, i.e., it isn’t performed when deciduous teeth fall-off
  • has a full-grown jaw 
  • has enough bone tissue to support the implant, or they can easily undergo bone grafting for the same
  • has healthy gums and oral tissues
  • doesn’t have any medical conditions like osteoporosis, uncontrolled diabetes, etc., which can affect healing
  • is uncomfortable with removable dentures
  • has inadequate support for fixed dentures
  • wants a better quality of life, etc.

Your dentist will examine your oral hygiene, daily life, health, etc., to determine whether you need dental implants. Following this, they will draft a treatment plan and explain the treatment process to you.

 

Pre-operative preparation for dental implant surgery

Dental implants need comprehensive diagnosis and treatment planning to ensure the success of the treatment. Generally, before getting a dental implant, you should get the following diagnostic tests:

  • Comprehensive dental exam: Your dentist will examine your oral cavity to ensure your gums and jaw bone are healthy enough to support the implant. If the patient has severe gum disease, then the patient will need treatment for that before beginning the implant treatment process.
  • Imaging tests: The best way to assess jaw bone length and health is via imaging tests like X-rays, MRI and CBCT scans, etc. The results from these imaging tests tell the dentist whether the patient needs bone graft or ridge augmentation surgery.
  • Medical approval: Patients also need approval from their primary healthcare provider/general physician before implant surgery to avoid complications related to health conditions like heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, etc.
  • Surgery planning: Following all this, the dentist will decide how many implants the patient needs, when they should be placed, etc., to draft the treatment plan.

In addition, the patient should schedule at least 1-2 days of rest time after the initial surgery and follow all the treatment guidelines as prescribed. Before beginning the treatment, they should also research their dentist’s credentials, like their qualifications, experience, etc.

 

Dental implant procedure

Following the diagnosis, the dentist will begin the treatment process. If the patient requires additional surgery, it can be either performed at the same time as implant surgery or months before. Implant surgery is performed as a single-day procedure under local anesthesia. 

The surgeon fixes the implant screw in the ridge and covers it with dental packing to avoid exposure and improve healing. Once the incision has healed, they will cover the area using a temporary denture to maintain an aesthetic appearance. Following the surgery, the patient has to come for follow-up appointments to ensure that the implant is integrating properly with the jaw bone. 

Dental implants are made of alloys of biocompatible materials like zirconium dioxide, titanium, Vitallium, etc., to promote their integration with the jaw bone. When the osseointegration (biointegration of the implant screw and jaw bone) is complete, the dentist performs a minor procedure to remove the tissue on the top of the screw and attach an abutment over it. 

About 2 weeks after the placement of the abutment, the artificial tooth prosthesis is attached to the gums. The teeth can be removable or fixed. Removable teeth can be taken out for repair or cleaning, but fixed teeth are permanently cemented into the jaws. Since implants provide a very strong attachment, several teeth can be placed as a bridge on a single implant.

 

Types of dental implants

Based on dental implant placement, there are 3 main types of implants:

  • Endosteal implants: An endosteal implant is placed directly in the jawbone and acts as a root for crown placement. It is the most common type of dental implant used.
  • Subperiosteal implants: Subperiosteal implants are attached to a wire framework placed around the jaw beneath the gums. The framework integrates with the jawbone while the implants rest on top of the bone. This implant is used if the patient can’t or doesn’t want to undergo ridge expansion/augmentation surgery.
  • Zygomatic implants: Zygomatic implants are only used for patients with an insufficient maxillary jaw bone. The implant is attached to the zygomatic bone (cheekbone) instead of the maxillary bone.

 

Types of dental implant treatments

  • Single-tooth implant

This treatment is performed by replacing a missing tooth with an implant. It is usually performed when a patient has only one missing tooth, and it is causing aesthetic or speech issues. 

  • Implant-supported bridge

An implant-supported bridge is a dental bridge made of 3-5 teeth that are supported by one or two implant posts. It is usually performed when a patient is missing multiple teeth in a row.

  • All-on-4 implant

The all-on-4 implant treatment is generally performed to rehabilitate an entirely edentulous jaw. During this treatment, the dental surgeon implants 4 implant posts in strategic positions over the arch to support a dental bridge made of a maximum of 14 teeth, i.e., 4 incisors, 2 canines, 4 premolars, and 4 molars.

  • All-on-6 implant

All-on-6 implant treatment is similar to all-on-4, i.e., it is performed for rehabilitation of an entire edentulous ridge, but it provides better stability due to the increased number of implants. The dentist places 6 implant posts all over the ridge to support a maximum of 16 teeth, i.e., 4 incisors, 2 canines, 4 premolars, and 6 molars in an arch.

 

Dental Implant Parts

There are 3 components of dental implants- implant screw (also called fixture or post), abutment, and crown. The implant post is fixed in the dental arch and serves as an anchor for the implant. The abutment is a connecting piece that binds the implant screw and crown. The crown portion is the most aesthetic part of the dental implant as it is the only component visible in the oral cavity. 

  • Different types of implant posts, based on their shape, are - Cylindrical, Straight Screw, Conical Screw, V-shaped, Tapered, Cervical, and Apex. 
  • Different types of implant posts, based on their surface, are - Smooth, Machined, Textured, and Coated.
  • Different types of implant abutments are - Standard (Straight or Angled) and Customized (CADCAM, Casting, or TiBase).
  • Different types of implant crowns, based on dental implant material, are - Zirconia, Porcelain-Fused-To-Metal (PFM), Emax, Gold, and Acrylic (PMMA) / Composite Resin.
  • Types of implant crowns based on their placement are - cement-retained and screw-retained.

 

Care tips for dental implants

Dental implants can easily last for 10-15 years if the patient takes proper care of their oral health. These care tips are not extraordinary, they are very easy to follow and will increase the longevity of your dental implants:

  • Maintain proper oral hygiene. Brush your teeth at least once or twice a day and floss at least once a day. It is best to floss after every meal, but if it is not possible, you should at least rinse your mouth.
  • Use soft nylon brushes and interproximal brushes for brushing your teeth. Avoid abrasive or flavored toothpaste and mouthwash.
  • Avoid eating hard or sticky foods that can damage your dental crown, gums, etc.
  • Nicotine directly impacts the gum and oral cavity health, so stop tobacco usage like smoking, tobacco chewing, etc. 
  • Make regular dental appointments and get cleaning done whenever necessary.

 

Risks and complications

Dental implant surgery is a major surgery that can lead to severe complications if not managed properly in time. Risks of dental implant surgery include:

  • Sinus damage
  • Infection
  • Nerve damage
  • Damage to the adjacent teeth
  • Jaw or teeth fracture
  • Allergic reaction
  • Failure of the implant to integrate with the bone

Make sure you follow your dentist’s instructions throughout your treatment journey to avoid long-term complications of such treatments. Connect with your implant surgeon immediately if there is any sign of complications for immediate treatment.

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