Not very long ago an attractive middle-aged woman came to see me. She was very upset as it appeared she was going to lose her few remaining lower teeth and have to wear a lower denture. She had been told by friends how difficult it was to comfortably wear a lower denture and how embarrassing it was when they had to go to the bathroom in the middle of a meal to remove a painful seed from under the denture or to add adhesive to keep the denture in place. After some discussion, she broke down in tears and expressed how distressing it was for her to lose her teeth. She didn't want to be without teeth but didn't know of any alternative to dentures.
Fortunately, we were able to offer her an excellent alternative to the traditional denture. We placed implant supported teeth that were firmly anchored to her jawbone. She was able to chew with more comfort and smile with more confidence than she had in many years. This is not an isolated story but an example of what happens again and again.
Dental implants are not new, but advanced technology and improved procedures now make us confident that we can get excellent long-term results. Many research studies have shown that modern implants, when carefully placed and restored, can last many years and even a lifetime. Today dental implants are made of materials such as titanium which has been used successfully for over 50 years as orthopedic knees and hip replacements. Dental implants are non-allergenic, and very compatible with body tissue. An improved knowledge of how to place implants without injuring tissue and how to increase the stability of the implants in the jaw bones has resulted in very gratifying success for hundreds of thousands of patients.
How can Implants be used?
Implants can be used to replace dentures, bridges or missing individual teeth. Also, implants can be used to stabilize or replace teeth loosened by periodontal disease or accidents. They can even be used as anchors to help move and straighten other teeth with orthodontics. As you can see, dental implants are quite versatile and helpful in many treatment conditions.
Who can have Implants?
While dental implants are not appropriate treatment for every patient, it is the rare person who cannot receive an implant. There are a variety of sizes, shapes and types of implants and no single type is going to be best for everyone. Each individual has unique oral anatomy, so we use a variety of implant designs depending on the needs of the patient and their particular dental condition.
What are the benefits of Dental Implants?
The most obvious benefit is an increased ability to chew and function with implant-supported teeth. In fact, it has been shown that while people with dentures can only chew food with about 20% of the force of their natural teeth, people with implants can chew with 85% to 95% of the force of their natural teeth. But there can be many other benefits. One common problem that denture wearers face is the lack of stability of dentures, particularly lower dentures, as they are balanced on the jawbone between the muscles of the cheek, lips and tongue. The insecurity resulting from loose dentures can be eliminated by using implants to "anchor" dentures or by making implant-supported teeth. For some people it is the discomfort or bulkiness of removable dental appliances that is the major concern. Implants can eliminate these problems also. The loss of teeth and the supporting bone can cause significant changes in facial features.
Anyone with dentures knows how important the teeth, gums and jawbone are as support for the lips, cheeks and lower face. Loss of these important structures gives an appearance of premature aging and for many people causes emotional distress and a loss of self-esteem. Implant-supported teeth and dentures can slow down this aging process and help improve self esteem and the often-felt loss of intimacy. So, while functional benefits are the most obvious, cosmetic and emotional benefits are for many people as important as, or more important than, improved chewing.
How successful are Implants?
While there are risks and concerns with any dental procedure, results of implant treatment are quite predictable today. Each patient must be evaluated individually by a dentist with experience in implantology. The discipline of implantology is demanding, but extremely rewarding. I have elected to concentrate my practice on implantology because of the tremendous gratification of seeing so many of my patients so pleased with their implants. Implants are here to stay and will continue to improve the quality of life and help restore the oral health of millions of people.
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