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Dental implants are a reliable and long-lasting replacement for missing teeth.

A dental implant consists of two parts. First there is a root form that is placed in the jaw. It is approximately the same size as a tooth root, and it takes the place of the root of the missing tooth.

Usually a healing period is required for the process known as osseointegration—during which the bone grows in tightly around the root form so that it is solidly anchored. By tightly adapting the surgical site to the root form, this healing period can be shortened. Some practitioners offer what is called “teeth in an hour,” where the dental implant is placed into function immediately. This can be done, but there may be a trade-off between risk and patience here. When the healing time is rushed, there could be increased risk of failure.

The visible part of the dental implant is the crown. An abutment is screwed into the root form and the crown is placed over it.

If the process is done well, the end result is very functional, long-lasting, and highly aesthetic.

Situations Where Dental Implants Are Used

  • If you are missing all your teeth, dental implants are far preferable to removable complete dentures. Removable dentures not only have poor chewing efficiency (less than 50% of normal chewing efficiency), but they will lead to gradual bone resorption ending up with facial collapse and the inability to reasonably fit any kind of a denture.
  • If you have one or two teeth missing, and the adjacent teeth are intact and healthy, dental implants are a good idea. They eliminate the need for placing crowns on adjacent healthy teeth.
  • If your missing tooth or teeth are in the very back of your mouth, you may not have the option of having potential supporting teeth on both sides. In this case, the only solutions would be dental implants or a uncomfortable removable appliance. The same is true if you have a number of missing teeth.

Disadvantages?

• Protracted healing time, and probably more expensive than other methods of tooth replacement.

Advantages?

• Unlike a dental bridge, no additional preparation of adjacent teeth is necessary. Why mess with teeth that are healthy?

• Maintenance is less expensive, mostly because the trouble area is limited to one tooth, where a bridge involves at least three teeth. Cleaning is simple compared to the troublesome bridge – which is a constant challenge to keep clean.

• They preserve the bone. When a tooth is extracted, the body senses the loss and begins to resorb the bone that used to support that tooth. That can lead to all sorts of problems, especially in a bridge where multiple teeth are missing. The presence of a dental implant signal to the body that this bone is still needed, and these difficulties are prevented.

(This blog entry is culled from the writings of the esteemed Dr. David Hall, who sums it all up better than most.)

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