In the past several years we have seen an exponential increase in the use of dental implants for the oral rehabilitation of people with missing teeth. After more than fifty years of research and clinical trials, dental implants are now considered to be the standard of care for the replacement of missing teeth. In most situations it is the healthier and more cosmetic way of replacing missing teeth. Dentists no longer have to “grind down” healthy teeth to fit bridges.
It’s no surprise that those who benefit most from implant therapy are denture wearers. I’m still frequently asked “Do I need one implant for every missing tooth?” The answer is no. Loose dentures and pastes can be eliminated with as few as two implants. Many denture wearers have taken advantage of the very cost effective approach of having just two implants placed in the lower jaw to securely hold a full denture in place. This results in significant improvements in comfort, chewing ability and quality of life. Often the patient’s existing denture can be fitted to the new implants.
Most of you probably are already aware of the benefits of implants and how they work. You are also likely to be familiar with how predictable they are and how easily implant treatment can be accomplished in most cases under local anesthesia (“Novocaine”) and with minimal post-operative discomfort.
Most of this is nothing new. So what is new in Implant Dentistry? You may have heard that implant treatment can take many months to complete. Or that some people don’t have enough bone for implants. Good news! Treatment times have been greatly reduced due to recent advances in techniques. New bone grafting materials and techniques can replace bone and allow for the placement of implants in situations where there wasn’t sufficient bone.
“Immediately loading implants” is a technique that allows for the attachment of teeth onto the implants on the same day the implants are placed. This technique eliminates waiting for three to six months for the bone to heal around the implants before you can attach the teeth. This method has been around for quite some time but recent improvements in surgical techniques, computer technology and the use of CAT Scans has simplified the process and increased success rates. Not every situation lends itself to immediate loading of implants yet, but it’s probably only a question of time.
Bone grafting and tissue regenerating materials and techniques are constantly improving. Dentistry, together with orthopedic surgery and neurosurgery, has historically been at the forefront of innovative biomaterials and bone grafting development. We now have more options than ever before to achieve cosmetic and functional results that were not possible only a few years ago.
It is important to remember that although dental implants are the standard of care in tooth replacement it is not necessarily always the best way or for that matter the only way to replace missing teeth. Some people are better treated with traditional tooth replacement methods. Prior to undertaking implant therapy, or any dental rehabilitation, a thorough review of a patient’s medical and dental history needs to be made by the treating implant dentist. The patient’s individual needs and concerns need to be discussed and established so that an appropriate course of care is taken.
Implants have opened up a whole new world of options in dental rehabilitation. It is important to seek the advice of a dentist who is adequately trained, experienced and up to date with current methods in implant dentistry. Only a dentist who is qualified to deliver implant treatment can accurately advise patients on all their implant options.
Dr. E. A. Demirdjan has private implant & general dentistry practices in New York and Middle Village. He is on the teaching staff at St. Luke’s Hospital and Brookdale University Hospital Department of Implant Dentistry. Dr. Demirdjan is an Associate Fellow of the American Academy of Implant Dentistry and lectures nationally. His research has been published in scientific journals.