Understanding dental implants
‘Implantology’ is the term we use to refer to the range of technologies and techniques associated with dental implants. Implantology is a rapdily growing area due to the fact that dental implants provide a way of maintaining the aesthetic appearance of teeth whilst at the same time preventing mastication and elocution related problems.
Dental implants provide a way of reconstructing missing teeth. The fitting of a dental implant is a recommended option for people who want to have missing teeth replaced with dental prosthetics.
The procedure involved must be carried out by a dental surgeon. Before making the decision to have an implant fitted, it’s a good idea to gain a good basic understanding of the advantages this relatively new technique offers and how it can be used. You’ll find everything you need to know about dental implants in our article.
Dental implant : definition
A dental implant is a kind of artificial root for a tooth. It goes in the alveolar bone, a non-visible part of the tooth. Dental implants ressemble screws or small metal posts fixed into the bone. The main purpose of a dental implant is to act as a replacement for a tooth’s damaged or extracted natural root in order to allow the fitting of dental prostheses, or ‘crowns’. It thus serves as a form of support and not as a replacement for an actual tooth.
The ultimate aim is to achieve perfect integration into the jaw, though this can only happen after a healing process has first taken place.
Leaving a hole after a tooth is extracted leads gradually to a progressive resoprtion of the maxillary bone. If the extracted tooth is not replaced as soon as possible, this phenomenon can end up damaging other teeth. The fitting of an implant is therefore not only essential for the prosthesis but also both avoids the risk of damage occurring to other teeth and prevents significant bone loss.
Dental implants are usually made from ceramic and titanium. However, they can also contain biochemical substances. These materials are compatible with the human body and present no risk of rejection. Dental implants made from white coloured zirconia are now also available. These are made to measure and can thus easily be adapted to match the rest of teeth.
Dental implants last for up to ten years and have a 90% success rate in France. Investing in a course of dental implant treatment therefore presents substantial advantages for your oral health.
Because of the advantages they offer as a treatment option, dental implants are very expensive to have fitted. On average you can expect to pay between 800 and 2,500 euros. This price does vary from practice to practice however. Additoinally, the price can also vary depending on various criteria, such as the cost of the materials used to make the implant and the practice’s own charges, amongst other things. Before going ahead with the procedure, you can always request an estimate from your dental practice. It may be possible to cover all or some of the cost through your dental insurance, depending on your particular policy.
The different types of implant
Dental implants come in different types and are categorised according to their shape, i.e. cylinder, conical, blade or disk. The choice of which to use depends on the patient’s specific dental needs. If we consider just the material used in the manufacture, there are two types of implants : those made from metal, which are installed in the bone and also known as endosseous implants, and to which one or more teeth can be fitted, and subperiosteal types, which are installed on top of the bone. Subperiosteal implants are usually recommended for the lower jaw. These types of implants are suitable for patients in whom the bone is too short, or who have a thin jawbone. For more information about implantology, please contact Dr Diss in Nice.
The phases of the operation
Installing a dental implant requires a surgical operation. The success of the operation depends on various factors. It’s highly advisable to have the operation performed by a competent professional. The following are the four main stages involved in the procedure :
The pre-implant phase
In some cases, before the implant is fitted, a bone graft is first required. This is because the implant needs to be fitted to an area of bone dense enough to develop and form around it. A bone graft can therefore be necessary to increase the volume of the bone before the implant is fitted. This procedure can be carried out simultaneously with the installation of the implant however.
The dental surgeon is the one who decides whether a bone graft is required or not. During the initial consultation, the dentist will take an X-ray in order to examine the density of the maxillary sinus and ascertain whether a bone graft is necessary. There are two different types of bone graft used to provide the lacking bone mass. In some cases, it may be necessary to wait for the bone to regenerate before proceeding with the installation of the implant.
The surgical phase
The operation itself will normally be carried out under local anaesthetic. The first phase involves making an incision in the gum using the jawbone as a guide. In order to install the implant, the dental surgeon will then drill a cavity to the required size.
There are two methods the practitioner can use for this:
– The Swedish method, which is carried out in two stages: after the implant has been installed, the surgeon first inserts a screw-like healing cap then stitches the edges of the gum back in place over it, which speeds up the healing process.
– The Swiss method, which consists of simply inserting the healing cap in a single step. The cap is therefore left uncovered with this method.
The osteointegration phase
Once the implant has been installed, the bone can normally be expected to take two to six months to heal. During this period, the bone gradually reforms and regenerates over the surface of the implant. This healing stage also gives the bone time to attach itself firmly to the implant.
The prosthetic phase
The prosthetic phase consists of inserting a small post into the dental implant to receive the prosthesis. During this stage, the dental surgeon will need to create another incision if they’ve used the Swedish method. With the Swiss technique, the healing cap will still be exposed and visible. The post will serve as a support for the false tooth.
There are now also other methods available for installing dental implants however. With some techniques, the gum does not need to be opened up. All they require is the creation of a circular opening the same size as the implant. These immediate post-extraction techniques also do not require a healing period, which can often be of long duration with other methods.
It’s important to underline that the fitting of a prosthetic to replace an incisor can often be difficult and require more work. Various other factors can cause an implant to fail. Smoking is one of these, as are kidney failure and other medical conditions that make fitting an implant impossible. The operation requires a high standard of oral hygiene.
Additionally, there are certain cleaning measures that need to be taken to ensure the longevity of the implant once it’s been fitted. Regular visits to the dentist, i.e. at least once a year, are required so that the progress of the treatment can be checked. It’s also advisable to pay careful attention to what types of foods are consumed during the period immediately following the fitting. Opt for liquid foods, and completely avoid eating anything overly hard for the first two weeks.