A dental implant is composed of three key components: a small titanium screw that is inserted into and fuses with the jawbone, an abutment or post which attaches to the implant, and a crown (in the case of one implant) that fits over the abutment to provide a natural looking tooth that functions well. Dental implants may be used to replace individual teeth, multiple teeth, or all your teeth in one or both arches. In the case of a full arch, 14 teeth may be supported by as few as four implants.
Dental implants successfully integrate with the bone in more than 97% of the cases. In those few cases where an implant becomes loose, your oral surgeon will remove the implant and place a new one in a slightly different position to achieve better integration with the bone.
Almost everyone that has lost a tooth, several teeth or even all of their teeth is a candidate for dental implants. There are very few situations in which implants are not indicated. In fact, the dental profession is undergoing a great paradigm shift in that regular restorative dental crowns, bridges, partial and full dentures are starting to be considered obsolete, to be used only as alternatives to the effective treatment of dental implant supported restorative dentistry.
Traditional dental implant treatment involves an exam by your dentist, placement of the implants by your dentist or a specialist, several months of healing time, then creation of your prosthesis (new teeth) by a specially trained restorative dentist. The entire process can take up to 12 months, or more.
This procedure, as any other oral surgical procedure, has some associated pain. However, many implant patients comment that they were surprised at how minimal the pain and discomfort of their procedure were, especially when performed under sedation.
Once the implants are placed, your new teeth are fixed to the implants, and do not rest on your gums, thus avoiding aggravation to the surgical site. This can mean less pain than traditional dentures or other treatment approaches, and shorter duration of discomfort.
Dental implant treatment may qualify for some insurance coverage, but is generally limited to the coverage provided for a bridge or partial denture.
Implant supported teeth need to be brushed and cared for just like natural teeth, though flossing will be different. As with natural teeth, you will need to visit your dentist periodically for cleanings.
Age appears not to be a factor for dental implant success. Bone healing around dental implants occurs in patients from the 6th to the 10th decade of life with almost equal success as in younger patients.
The only thing to stand in the way of dental implant treatment in the elderly is general medical health. There are a number of medical conditions that can preclude treatment. Therefore, in addition to a general health history, a physical, blood studies and cardiograms may be required, as well as a release from your medical doctor.