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Dental implants refer to replacement tooth roots. Over the years, despite advances in dental care, tooth replacement has been limited to dentures and bridges which can be highly uncomfortable. However, the availability of such implants now makes the process of tooth replacement more permanent since dentures are connected directly to the jaw bone. They, therefore, offer a permanent, stable foundation for the attachment of individual replacement teeth or dentures.
How They Work
As already mentioned, dentures are permanently fixed to the jaw bone. They provide a permanent base for the attachment of artificial teeth to replace the lost tooth or teeth. Given that they are permanent in nature, once dental implants are fixed in the mouth, they can last for one’s lifetime without the need for a replacement so long as one is healthy.
The process of acquiring a dental implant is lengthy but worth it. To begin with, the dentist needs to assess the health of a patient before deciding whether he/she is eligible for implants. Smokers, patients undergoing radiation therapy around the neck region, and those with heart disease or diabetes need to be thoroughly assessed before the dentist gives the go-ahead for the procedure. One is eligible for implants if he/she is of good health, has healthy gums and has enough bone for the attachment of implants. If the bone mass is thin or soft, it may not support an implant. A patient will, therefore, need a bone graft first before the implantation process begins.
No two patients are ever the same. The dentist will, therefore, come up with a customized treatment plan for each patient. The plan covers any processes needed to prepare the implantation site such as bone grafting, when one can have the implant inserted, taking a model of the patient’s teeth, and preparing the artificial teeth to be attached to the implant. Once all this is done, a titanium root implant is attached to the jaw bone. Once inserted, it takes 6-12 weeks for complete healing before the next step of the process.
In the next step, an abutment (a small connector post) is attached to the inserted root. This will hold the tooth crown firmly in place preventing any movement of the tooth replacement. Given that the dentist already has a model of the patient’s bite and artificial teeth have already been prepared according to the model, the next step is to attach the tooth replacement to the abutment. Removable dentures can also be attached to the abutment.
The procedure for getting implants may sound like a complicated and painful process, but many people report that the amount of pain involved is less compared to that of a tooth extraction. There may be slight discomfort and pain when the implant is first inserted but the discomfort will end, and over the counter painkillers can be used to relieve any pain.
There are two types of implants: endosteal and subperiosteal implants. In the former, implants are directly fitted to the jawbone then a connector post is attached to this before attachment of the tooth replacement while in the latter a metal frame is first fitted to the jaw bone followed by post attachments that protrude through the jaw and finally artificial teeth are mounted.
Dental implant prices are higher compared to those of dentures or bridges since they are permanent in nature. Given the higher cost, many insurance companies cover costs of up to 10%. The cost should however not deter anyone from getting them since the benefits of having these implants outweigh the costs involved.
Dental implants have many benefits. They are permanently fixed to the jaw bone preventing movement of teeth when talking or eating. They also improve one’s appearance since they look like one’s natural teeth even in terms of color. Consequently, they improve one’s self-confidence and self-esteem by restoring one’s smile. These implants also contribute to good oral health since they are taken care of in the same way one takes care of natural teeth.
Additionally, given that neighboring teeth are not tampered with to support the dental implant, these teeth remain in the best health condition. They also give easy access to teeth for easy cleaning. An implant is durable and can serve one for the rest of his/her life while offering convenience. Convenience comes in since no one has to know that the patient ever got implants and neither do they have to be occasionally removed as is the case with dentures. Dental implant prices are also recovered throughout one’s lifetime since implants are permanent in nature and do not need replacement.
Taking care of implants is the same as taking care of natural teeth. One needs to pay attention to good oral health by brushing teeth regularly, flossing, and visiting the dentist regularly for dental checkups.
A dental implant is up to 98% successful and when taken care of does not need replacement throughout one’s lifetime.