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A Dental Professional Answers Questions

31 December 2015 Written by  Interview By Don Huntington
Published in January 2016 Articles

What do you see as the most hopeful trend in modern dentistry?

Dental implants are a true revolution, providing effective solutions for a number of problems including missing teeth, teeth that are failing because of gum problems, and loose dentures. By maintaining the integrity of the mouth’s structure, implants serve to prevent deterioration of the jawbone that will result from missing teeth. Dental implants provide ideal solutions to each of these aggravating and often life-diminishing conditions.

What did you mean by the term “life-diminishing”? Problems with missing or failing teeth and loose dentures are always embarrassing. Missing teeth lead to poor nutrition and the formation of arterial plaque, which is a main cause of heart attacks and strokes. Missing or damaged teeth and problems with dentures can also cause difficulties in speaking clearly and chewing food.

Just as important, perhaps, is the subtle damage that tooth problems can inflict on a person’s self-esteem. People who are ashamed to smile broadly or who attempt to conceal their teeth behind their hands or a newspaper are projecting a poor self-image that others pick up on. The professional success of such people and their ability to thrive in any part of their lives is diminished by the poor image they present to the world, both by their lowered self-esteem and by the issues with their teeth that are creating the problem.

Implants would improve their smiles leading to significant increase in their subsequent self-image, besides improving their general health and comfort.

How large is the potential implant market? According to estimates by The World Health Organization, 40 million people in the Western world are missing all their teeth. Over 19 million of them live right here in the U.S. Note that the alarming statistic represents only those who have lost all their teeth. The number of U.S. citizens missing only some of their teeth would obviously be enormous.

Dental implants provide the best response to this devastating problem. They are the finest replacement choices for missing teeth that we dental professionals can provide.

What is the procedure for placing implants? Each implant consist of three parts including the implant, itself, the “abutment” that supports it, and the tooth itself, called the “crown.” Implants are made from titanium, which is the material of choice because of its “biocompatible” properties — meaning the body will not identify it as a foreign substance and try to reject it. For that reason, surgeons use titanium for replacing joints and repairing bones. Because of its light weight and strength, titanium is also used in airplane parts, eyeglasses, golf clubs, and dozens of other products. Titanium’s biocompatibility permits it to fuse to the bone — a process called osseointegration. The integration of implant and bone is strong enough to last a lifetime.

The abutment is a fixture screwed into the top of the implant that provides a strong foundation to which the tooth can be secured.

What are the steps in getting an implant? Restoring a smile begins with a consultation to identify the patient’s concerns and expectations followed by an oral pretreatment examination to uncover periodontal issues including bone loss and bone density, and to establish the desired outcome. The examination also includes a “smile analysis” to assist us in determining future issues and needs.

The exam employs our state-of-the-art 3-D imaging, “cone beam,” x-ray scanner yielding results that not many years ago would have seemed like science fiction to any dental professional. The technology enables me to plot finely tuned landmarks in both the upper and lower jaw, marking the location of such things as sinuses and nerve-endings, which permits me to create a safe road map for optimal implant placement, yielding the best outcomes possible.

How long does the implant procedure take? The process requires a greater-or-lesser time, depending on several factors including the implant’s location, the number of implants to be placed, the thickness of the bone, and the density of the bone. The last two characteristics vary from one region of the mouth to another. Bone material is most abundant and dense at the chin, like hardwood, and then becomes softer as it moves backwards in the mouth, especially in the upper “maxillae” part of the jaw.

Implants require a period of healing during which bone cells grow in and around the titanium implant in order to fuse it solidly to the bone before the tooth can be put into place. Placing a tooth prematurely on a newly placed implant weakens its integrity and makes it vulnerable to failure. Rate of healing is a function of bone density, so an implant can be placed almost immediately in the denser bone mass at the forward region of the mouth, but the softer back areas can require 4-6 months for sufficient healing before placing the tooth.

Is it possible to speed up the implant process? Absolutely! In fact, as our “Teeth In A Day” title implies, we have a procedure that permits patients to walk out the door with a set of implants after a single treatment. The immediate replacement of teeth is ideal for people who are missing all the teeth in their upper or lower jaw.

Teeth In A Day involves strategically placing 4-6 adjoining implants so that they provide mutual stability. The 3-D-imaging-based pre-treatment exam, described above, permits precise planning of the placement to ensure that chewing forces are evenly distributed among the implanted teeth. The new teeth are assembled as a complete unit screwed into the implants, eliminating the problems with moveable dentures that frequently cause users embarrassment and stress.

Implants are permanent and are indistinguishable from healthy natural teeth. Your smile will be beautiful.

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