What are Dental Implants?
A Dental Implant is an option to restore a missing tooth or multiple teeth in the jaw. It is one of the most successful treatments to replace missing teeth and is also the least invasive option concerning adjacent teeth.
It does not involve cutting down healthy adjacent teeth as seen in dental bridge, and is a fixed option that is less likely to trap food and bacteria like a removable denture.
It will feel similar to a natural tooth, since that it is attached to the jaw bone unlike that of a dental bridge or denture. However it will not feel exactly the same as a natural tooth due to the difference of how natural tooth root is attached to the jaw bone comparing to the dental implant. This is why we still regard dental implant as an option only if no other options are available to restore a broken/fractured/decayed tooth.
The Dental Implant Procedure:
The procedure consists of placing a high-grade titanium alloy implant root analogue (artificial dental root) into the jaw bone that has been prepared to receive the implant. Once the implant root is placed, the bone is allowed to heal between 3-9 months. This is the most crucial step in implant procedure as failure tends to occur during this phase due to infection during healing or body’s own foreign body reaction. Smokers and patients who are immunocompromised are more prone to implant failures due to reduced resistance to bacterial infection and poorer healing capabilities.
Upon integration of the implant to the jaw bone (Osseointegration), the dentist will then place an abutment to the implant (similar to a tooth prepared to receive a dental crown or bridge), followed by the final restoration (crown or bridge). Newer technology has allowed the abutment and crown to be fused as one piece design to improve strength and stability, but is not always possible. Your dentist will discuss with you the best option suited to you.
Advantages of Dental Implants:
1) Fixed option, meaning that it is attached to the jaw bone similar to a natural tooth.
2) Less invasive to adjacent teeth as there is no need to grind the adjacent teeth during its placement most of the time. Also, careful procedure usually induces less pain than a tooth removal.
3) Cost effective for potential future loss of teeth as multiple implants can be joint together to convert into a bridge, meaning not every single missing tooth needs to be implanted.
4) Considered one of the best treatments for missing tooth/teeth. High success rate comparing to other options available.
Disadvantages of Dental Implants:
1) Relative high cost initially comparing to most standard tooth restorations (crowns and ceramic onlays are significantly cheaper if the tooth can be restored that way).
2) Minor surgery is required and relative risk associated with smokers and immunocompromised patients.
3) Does not feel exactly like real tooth but very close to it. In fact, nothing compares to a natural tooth which is why we would always recommend dental restorations prior to considering removal of the tooth and replacing it with dental implant.
4) Aesthetic of the gum (gingiva) is more challenging to obtain as it does not attach to the implant the same way the gum attaches to natural tooth. Additional surgery may be necessary adding to the cost of treatment.