The ability to restore something to its’ original function, shape and appearance once it has been lost, is a miracle by definition. Imagine the loss of a hand, foot, or an eye and then trying to restore these to their original functional parameters. Science has come a long way but the results are still lacking. In contrast, a person who has his two front teeth knocked out in an accident or other circumstances that require early loss of teeth can have them replaced or restored to almost complete function, shape and appearance by the use of dental implants. This is what we refer to as a miracle.
What is a dental implant? By definition a dental implant is a root formed end usually made of titanium that is placed in the bone and allowed to attach to the bone, which supports restorations that resembles a tooth or a group of teeth that are missing. In simple terms—a threaded titanium cylinder that takes the place of the root in the bone that a tooth is attached to.
The earliest known examples of implants imbedded into bone were shown to have existed in the early Mayan civilizations in 600 AD. Archeologists found three tooth shaped pieces of shell placed into the sockets of three missing lower incisor teeth while excavating Mayan burial sites in Honduras in 1931. Dr. Per Branemark and Dr. Leonard Linkow are the modern day heroes of implantology. Their work in the early 1950’s provided the basis for the success we are experiencing today.
Prior to the surgical placement of the implant, careful and detailed planning is required to identify vital structures including the nerves and sinus as well as the shape and dimensions of the bone to properly position the implants for the most predictable and successful outcome. This is usually accomplished with the aid of two and three dimensional radiographs and Cad/Cam computer generated stents.
The procedure for implant placement can be quite simple and usually does not generate much if any post-surgery pain. Most of my patients are pleasantly surprised by how they feel about the surgery. The healing time between implant placement and implant loading varies with the difference of bone density, whether the implant is placed at time of tooth extraction, and/or if sinus lifts and bone grafting is necessary. Some medical conditions will also require longer healing times. The normal time is between two to six months.
There are few absolute contraindications to implant dentistry. However, there are some systemic, behavioral, and anatomic considerations that should be accessed. Uncontrolled Type II Diabetes which results in poor peripheral blood circulation is one instance where implants may not be indicated. Risk of failure is also increased in smokers. The use of intravenous or oral bisphosphonates can also increase the risk of bone necrosis.
I have received advance training in oral surgery and the placement and restoration of dental implants which I have been placing for the past 30 years. Our office also has the state of art in 3D Dental Imaging and Cad/Cam computer generated implant guidance and placement.