Dental implants are small screws made out of titanium. Their purpose is to replace the root portion of a missing tooth. Titanium is the only metal that the body will accept, allowing bone to grow in and around the screw. Placing an implant in the jawbone (where the natural tooth root was) anchors the replacement, allowing full use of the mouth and teeth. Restoring comfort, function, esthetics, and preserving natural anatomy are the main goals in replacing missing teeth with dental implants.
Dental implants can:
The dentist will do a thorough examination to decide whether you are a candidate for dental implants. Each tooth will be examined, and a medical and dental history taken. A record will be made of fillings, tooth positions, gum and bone status, and any other dental requirements needing attention.
Special x-rays (panoramic and tomograms) are taken to evaluate how much bone is available and exactly where it is. This helps assess whether implants can be placed directly, or whether grafting more bone will be necessary. This step is very important. It helps the dentist placing the implant to identify important structures such as nerves, sinuses, and adjacent teeth roots. This is the dentistry equivalent of ‘Call before you dig’. 3-D imaging and medical modeling can help facilitate treatment of complex situations. The use of advanced technologies harmoniously combines clinical dentistry and surgery with engineering for better outcomes.
Mounted diagnostic study casts of the new teeth will be made. These help clarify expectations about the final results. They also help with treatment planning and assessing bone and tissue concerns.
All treatment options, including leaving the mouth as it is, or making removable prostheses (partials and dentures), fixed prostheses (crowns and bridges), and implants will be discussed. You and your dentist will sit down together to decide your best treatment option.
A comprehensive treatment plan for your whole mouth is necessary. The dentist wants not only to fill in missing holes, but also to eliminate structural problems. As you would build a house on a solid foundation, you want to provide structure when investing in your teeth. Done properly, it should be a one-time only job. Although future maintenance will be required, each step is constructive, moving forward to achieve the desired goal.
Once you have decided on a treatment plan, the next step involves placing the implant in the jaw. Your dentist can do this procedure in the dental office or in a surgical suite. Local anesthetic is usually used to control pain. However, your dentist can also provide you with a prescription for oral pre-medication, inhalation or intravenous sedation for your comfort. You should not feel anything during the procedure, though over-the-counter pain medication may be needed later.
When the implant is in place, it is usually allowed to heal before permanent teeth are made. Recovery may be almost immediate or may take as long as six months, depending on your ability to heal. It is important that healthy bone develop around the implant. This allows a strong bond that holds the implant in place. After healing is complete, your dentist takes a final impression. A dental laboratory technician then uses it to create the permanent teeth.
If the implant teeth are designed to be permanent, they can be either screw-retained or cemented in place. If the teeth will be removable, they will be on either a bar with clips or other attachment. Your dentist will discuss which option is best for you based on many different factors. Once the permanent teeth are placed, you will receive care and hygiene instructions along with a schedule for future visits. You are now part of the dental implant family!
Just as with natural teeth, implant-retained teeth need to be cleaned daily and be regularly checked by a dentist. Special cleaning instruments are used to avoid scratching the titanium surface of the implant. Your dentist and hygienist can help you find a daily cleaning technique. Much of your long-term success with the implants depends on keeping your teeth and implants clean. At your check-ups, your hygienist and dentist will evaluate how you are doing. If needed, suggestions will be made to change your cleaning technique.
How do I know if implants are right for me?
Once your dentist has done a full examination, you can discuss treatment options. Take the information home and talk it through with those you trust. Do not rush the decision to have this amount of work done. If you are not comfortable with the recommendations, get a second opinion from a certified specialist in prosthodontics.
You may be presented with an extremely complex and expensive plan with which you are not comfortable. In this case, see what the long term goals and benefits are for this treatment plan, how it differs from the alternative proposals and if there is a way to achieve the same long term goal in smaller steps that suit you better. There is never just one way to treat most clinical situations. Have your clinician present realistic options including the one they recommend for you in your particular situation.
Check out the following web sites:
Alberta Dental Association and College
British Columbia Dental Association
College of Dental Surgeons of British Columbia
College of Dental Surgeons of Saskatchewan
Manitoba Dental Association
Tel: (204) 988-5300 Fax: (204) 988-5310
The Association of Prosthodontists of Canada
American College of Prosthodontists
How much do implants cost?
Everyone has different needs, both in terms of surgery and restoration (teeth placed on top of the implants). As a result, it isn’t practical to give a flat estimate. Procedures affecting the cost of implants include the number required and the type of teeth that will be used (porcelain, gold or resin). Additional surgical procedures required to place the implants (grafting of tissue or bone) will also affect the final cost. Your dentist can provide a written estimate once the necessary information has been gathered. Remember that each team member involved from separate offices will have separate charges.
How long will the implant last?
Every case is different. Proper planning of treatment, careful surgery and exact prosthetic planning are very important. With these, the odds are pretty good that the implants will last for the rest of your life. See your dentist regularly and clean your teeth carefully to ensure long term success.
Who should not have implants placed?
Patients who have surgical and healing complications may have trouble with implants. If you have cardiac or pulmonary problems that would not allow you to have elective surgical procedures, then implants are not recommended.
People who smoke or have uncontrolled metabolic diseases (severe diabetes) have much less success with implants. It is often necessary to quit smoking beforehand. If in doubt, your dentist will contact your doctor to ensure you are a good candidate for implant placement.
What type of implant should I have placed?
Thousands of different implant types are on the market today. Ask your dentist what type of implant he or she recommends and why. Ensure that the implant company selected has done research on their particular product and has published substantial research articles. You may also wish to contact a certified prosthodontist, oral and maxillofacial surgeon, or periodontist. Ask about the implant company recommended to you. Access promotional material and read the information on the company’s web site. You can find patient information and many photographs on these sites that can answer many of your questions directly.
Can I have my implant placed while on vacation in another country? They seem so much cheaper.
Although it is your right to obtain dental services wherever you wish, one needs to fully assess the goal in having extensive and expensive work done in a foreign country. Local credentials need to be validated as well as the facility and the materials used. Bottom line, buyer beware. If something does not work out the way you wished, what are your rights locally and who will be available to help you remedy your situation? If you feel comfortable with the environment and feel that this is where you would like to go for your implant treatment, then partner with your local dentist and obtain their advice and support prior to making the decision and trip.