The previous years have seen an immense increase in the utilization of implants in nearly all walks of life. Dentistry, in this regard, is also not far behind. A dental implant, simply put, is a device that is placed inside the jaw bone, and serves as the root portion of the tooth. After it has been successfully embedded and surrounded with the surrounding bone in a process known as osseo-integration, a suitable prosthesis or a restoration is built over it, in order to fabricate the crown portion of the tooth.
What Are Dental Implants Made of?
Currently, dental implants are being fabricated using dental alloys, among which titanium and its alloys are considered as the most ideal, owing to their superior bio-compatibility, strength ease of manufacturing and their light weight. However, research is in progress to utilize dental ceramics as well as composites for making implants for dental uses.
Types of Dental Implants
American Academy of Implant Dentistry classifies dental implants into two main types:
- Endosteal Implants - these are typically shaped like a screw or a cylinder, and as their name suggests, are placed within the jaw the bones. This is the most common types of dental implants used in dentistry.
- Subperiosteal Implants - this type of implants is not fully embedded within the bone, rather, they penetrate the outer lining of the bone, known as the periosteum, and rest over the jaw bone, instead of infiltrating it. They are useful for individuals who have a poor quality or quantity of jaw bone, and are unwilling to get it rebuilt.
Am I a Candidate For Dental Implants?
Generally speaking, any individual who has missing teeth, can be considered as a candidate for getting a dental implant.
- Missing Teeth - dental implants are considered as the best replacement for missing natural teeth, due to their long service life, as compared to other dental prostheses, such as removable or fixed dentures.
- Restoration of Function - even a single missing tooth can create difficulties during eating. Dental implants have mechanical properties that are closely matching those of the natural teeth, and are, hence able to function as a replacement for natural teeth by allowing effective mastication and biting forces.
- Aesthetic Reasons - most people are quite concerned about the aesthetic problems their missing teeth are causing. For these individuals, highly aesthetic prostheses can be built over the implants, not only restoring adequate function, but also restoring aesthetics and boosting the patient's self-esteem.
Contraindications of Dental Implants
Since dental implants are placed within the living tissues, it is important thoroughly evaluate the patient before proceeding towards placing implants. In fact, there are a few systemic and local and contraindications, which if present, must be eliminated before placing an implant.
- Extremes of Ages - since the quality and quantity of the bones is no sufficient to allow placement of an implant
- Cardiovascular Problems - these include previous history or risk of heart attack, coronary disease or diseases of the heart valves.
- Chronic Illnesses - chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension, thyroid, liver and kidney problems, impair the body's healing capability as well as the ability to fight infections.
- Immunological Problems - individuals who have a compromised immune system, are not suitable candidates for dental implants
- Previous History of Radiation Therapy - high dose radiation therapy is usually given to patients suffering from cancers. This radiation can cause permanent damage within the bones, and hence an implant should not be placed in them.
- Poor Oral Hygiene - dental implants require an impeccable oral hygiene for ensuring their long-term survival. Hence, a poor oral health can be considered as a definitive contraindication for placement of implants.
- Pre-existing Dental infection - an implant placement surgery must not be performed, until the oral cavity is free from any kind or acute or chronic infection. This is to allow a swift and uninterrupted healing of the implant placement site, as well as to encourage osseo-integration.
- Severe Atrophy of Jaw Bones - severely reabsorbed alveolar ridges do not permit the placement of dental implants, and must be augmented surgically before proceeding with the placement surgery.
How Is an Implant Placed?
Before performing the surgery, the dentist administers a local anaesthesia to area of operation. Next, an incision is made in the mucosa, followed by drilling the implant within bone under constant irrigation of water or saline to avoid over-heating and inadvertent damage to the bone. Afterwards, sufficient time is allowed for the implant to heal, after which a suitable prosthesis is built over it, to serve as the crown portion of the tooth.
A Final Word
Despite many people's concern regarding the high cost of dental implants and the minimal potential for them to be repaired in case of a crack or a fracture, the improvement that they bring about the quality in one's life, outweigh their initial high cost of placement.