Gone are the days where we had to contend with gaps along our dental arches due to lost teeth or be forced to use uncomfortable dentures to replace the teeth we’ve lost – often at the cost of functionality and ease of chewing. These days, new technology allows us not only to address the cosmetic impact of lost teeth but to restore the functionality of the tooth’s lost root system with the use of an artificial (but not superficial) replacement.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a surgically implanted artificial tooth comprised of a root system and accompanying tooth. Although the implant is not a live tooth, technology has found a way to simulate the behavior of a natural tooth in order to facilitate a healthy relationship between the tooth and the bone structure that it interacts.
How is an Implant Inserted?
The roots of dental implants are deliberately made of titanium. This is due to the fact that scientists have discovered that titanium uniquely reacts with a bone to form a bond that is both strong and long-lasting, given the right conditions. This is referred to as osseointegration and is responsible for the benefits offered by the implants.
To install a dental implant, a dentist uses a small drill to enter the gum tissue and proceed into the bony tissue of the jaw where the natural tooth used to be. The drill makes a pilot hole in the bone tissue and the hole is then made incrementally larger until it is the same size as the artificial root. The dentist’s special drill controls speed and ensures that bone tissue is not damaged by heat caused by friction. Once the hole has been drilled, the titanium implant is screwed into place, and either capped (so gum tissue can heal around it) or concealed under a flap of gum tissue. Once the soft tissues have healed, and the titanium has had an opportunity to fuse with the bone, the artificial tooth can be installed. The artificial tooth is known as a pontic and is held onto the artificial root with a connector called an abutment. This is done at a second appointment once your dentist has been able to confirm that osseointegration has occurred and that the implant was therefore successful.
Why are Dental Implants Beneficial?
At first, you may wonder why dental implants have gained such popularity despite the invasive process required to install them. The real benefit in dental implants lies in their ability to help your teeth communicate with the jaw bone in order to retain their strength and structure. You see, your teeth are part of an important process that ensures that your jaw’s bone density is retained.
When our teeth are acted upon by forces during chewing, the force is distributed across the dental arches and down into the roots of the teeth. When the roots of the teeth press into the bone sockets, it indicates to the jaw that calcium and other fortifying minerals are still needed in that area, and your body sends the appropriate minerals in to fortify the area. When teeth are removed or knocked out in a traumatic incident such as a car crash, the jaw is left without this critical stimulus and begins to direct minerals away from the jaw and allocates it to other areas of the body. While aesthetic and functional issues can be mitigated with the use of dentures to facilitate chewing, dentures provide a meager ten percent of the total bite force stimulation into the jaw. This results in bone resorption which begins as early as six months following the removal of the tooth’s roots. The result is one that continuously deteriorates the profile an appearance of the lower face and results in a reoccurring need to adjust the fit of dentures to accommodate the regressive changes.
Dental implants allow at least 80 percent bite force to be retained, promoting a strong jaw and healthy natural bone size and structure. Because pontics are resistant to decay, you will not need to worry about whether it will last, but you will need to maintain a good oral hygiene routine to mitigate bacterial overgrowth which could progress into gum disease, and put the implant at risk.
The cost of implants varies drastically due to the variation in preparatory procedures, the number of implants, and the amount of material required. In Canada, it is common to pay upwards of $40 000 dollars for a full dental restoration, or about $3000 dollars per independent implant.
Only your dentist can provide an informed investment estimate for your unique circumstances. We offer free consultations to explore your options where it comes to dental restorations.