Those who have lost all of their teeth or are soon to have their last, failing teeth removed have several options for tooth replacement. One of the most advanced and reliable techniques are to permanently attach lifelike prosthetic (new replacement) teeth to dental implants that are anchored in the jawbone.
Implant-supported teeth look and function just like real teeth, and are maintained with the same oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing. They provide important health benefits, and while dental implants are relatively expensive, a newer procedure that also provides functional teeth on the same day implant surgery is performed has brought the cost down and put this beneficial technology within the reach of many.
Implant-supported teeth allow normal function of the whole stomatognathic system (“stomato” – mouth; “gnathic” – jaws) including the nerves, muscles and jaw joints. By permanently replacing missing teeth — and lost gum tissues — implant-supported teeth restore the support of the facial structures (cheeks and lips), thereby creating a more youthful appearance as well as the ability to function normally. This includes chewing tough foods, eating fresh fruits and vegetables, laughing, kissing, speaking confidently and smiling with joy.
Dental Implants: State-of-the-Art Tooth Replacement Systems
It is not an overstatement to say that permanent tooth replacement with implants has revolutionized dentistry. Implants have particularly transformed the lives of people who are edentulous (completely toothless) by giving them a solution that is a lot more comfortable, secure and reliable than removable dentures. They also prevent the loss of jawbone density and volume that is inevitable when teeth are lost. Dental implants stabilize and stimulate the bone around them, maintaining bone dimension and strength. This is something removable dentures can’t do. In fact, wearing dentures actually accelerates bone loss.
All on 4 Replacement Teeth
A dental implant is a small, screw-shaped post that replaces the root of a missing tooth — the part that is housed in the bone beneath the gum. Implants are made of titanium, which has a unique ability to fuse to bone in a process called Osseo-integration (“Osseo” – bone; “integration” – to join with or fuse to). That’s what makes them so sturdy and reliable.
Today’s state-of-the-art implant systems enable a minimum number of implants to support a maximum number of teeth. That means as few as four implants can be used to support a full arch (upper or lower jaw) of fixed, non-removable replacement teeth. And this remarkable life-changing event can be accomplished with an all-in-4.
The implants themselves must be strategically placed to offer the most effective support. By rigidly connecting the new teeth to the implants, they stabilize each other. Think of this arrangement like a tabletop or chair supported by four legs, which are sometimes angled outward for maximum support.
This process is not only the most efficient way to replace all the teeth, but also the most cost-effective strategy for implant-supported tooth replacement. Individual implants to replace each tooth are impractical and not recommended. Given that there are usually 28 functional teeth (excluding wisdom teeth), replacing teeth individually can be vastly more expensive and may not offer any better results.
CT scans, short for computed tomography (“tomo” – slice; “graph” – picture) produce 3-D pictures of the jawbone, including the position of the teeth to be replaced. These scans provide critical information about a person’s anatomical structures (including bone, sinuses and nerves) and the ideal location for the implants.
Using computer simulation, the implants are digitally positioned in the jawbones in appropriate locations to optimally support the replacement teeth. This also allows for the fabrication of a surgical template if needed.
Surgery can be done simultaneously, including tooth extractions, bone shaping and implant placement. Skill, experience and meticulous planning are needed, particularly if the person has had significant bone loss.
The temporary teeth stay in the mouth approximately three months until healing is completed. During the first six to eight weeks of healing, it’s a good idea to “go easy” on the new teeth, avoiding chewy or tough foods. Because implant surgery is very precise and well-planned, people generally have little post-operative discomfort and begin functioning with their new temporary teeth almost immediately.
When the process of Osseo-integration is completed, the dentist removes the temporary teeth replacing them with the permanent ones. They are generally made of stronger, more durable materials and fit the healed gum tissues more precisely. The new permanent teeth will function just like natural teeth and look beautiful, too! FBN
By Bryan J. Shanahan, DDS