Replicating the natural function and appearance of your lost teeth can be very difficult to accomplish. Historically, dentures or fixed bridge restorations would be used as replacements, but varying results due to the mount of supporting bone. Dental implants, however, are natural-looking biocompatible replacements for missing teeth that provide the same function as your natural tooth root. They are also used to anchor dentures, full or partial, for greater success and patient satisfaction.
A dental implant is a small sturdy post of titanium or zirconia, which acts like the root of a natural tooth. A dental implant can be placed into your upper or lower jaw bone. After your bone has grown around the implant, it can hold a crown, bridge or over-denture just like roots hold natural teeth in place. Implants are very durable and can last a lifetime. From a single tooth to a full arch of teeth that have been lost due to injury or disease, teeth can be replaced with dental implants. Titanium metal or zirconia is used because of its compatibility with bone and oral tissues.
They require the same maintenance as natural teeth which include brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups.
Until recently, the material used for implants hasn’t changed much from the traditional metal titanium based implants. Some new titanium implants are very pure with extremely limited biocompatibility issues.
One of these newer alternative materials that have been introduced into the field of restorative dentistry is a metal-free ceramic material called Zirconium Oxide (Zirconia). Aesthetically, it has an advantage over traditional metal implants because of its white color, so no metal gray color shines through the gums when one smiles, called "tattoo effect". While titanium may not corrode easily, zirconia implants have been proven to be more durable than titanium.
The benefits of Zirconium as an alternative to metal implants go beyond aesthetics. While the safety of metal implants is still debated between dentists, some patients who may have a history of allergic reactions toward metals - or feel uncomfortable with the concept of inserting alloy metal in their mouth - now have the option since zirconium dioxide is a non-metallic material. Healing time is longer and the success rate is slighter less than titanium.
Most implants are still placed freehand, meaning by eye. Properly placing implants in a patient’s jaw is a complicated procedure. There are a lot of things that the dentist must consider before rushing into dental implant surgery. It must be placed correctly so it can be restored correctly and avoid hazardous areas. It is also important to evaluate the condition of the surviving natural teeth to keep those that can be saved.
We use 3D Galileos CT-Cone Beam Imaging to plan the placement position. The planning will show exactly where the dental implant(s) should be placed and where the dental implant crowns will look and function best. In fact, with the cone beam, we can make a plastic surgical guide to assist in exactly placing the implant. Now, one just doesn’t “guestimate” the placement of the implant (freehand) which can result in misplacement and increased potential of future problems or even failure.
As a dental implant patient, you deserve excellent dental implant treatment planning to ensure your chances that everything will go well with your implants. This involves taking x-rays (3D Cone Beam) to create a virtual computer model of you. Then, virtual surgery can be done on the computer before you are ever touched. You can actually visualize the placement position yourself before any treatment is begun! It shortens your surgery and improves the predictability of results for you.