Dental implants have helped millions of people worldwide cope with tooth loss due to injury, aging, or periodontal disease. The implanted devices serve as strong anchors when medical professionals are replacing lost teeth or stabilizing dentures.
Like an original root, an implant is fixed solidly to the jaw bone. In the early days of this technology, a thin blade was inserted in the bone or a root-like device was screwed to surrounding bone tissue. Today the artificial roots are fused to bone by ossification, making the device secure in the jaw socket. Similar ossification occurs when hip or knee replacement surgery is done.
An implant can serve as a solid base for a crown, which is placed after the device is securely ossified. These devices can also be used to stabilize dentures or to anchor a bridge when adjacent teeth are missing or too loose to do the job. Mini-implants of less than conventional diameter are often used for denture stabilization. An orthodontist can also use the technology to reinforce teeth that are being shifted to correct or adjust the bite.
Although commercially pure titanium is the material used most frequently for implant manufacture, there are new materials being tested as research continues to refine the technology. Titanium alloys and ceramics are some of the materials under study.
Dentists can perform the procedure in the United States, and many do so after getting training sponsored by manufacturers of implant devices. General or local anesthesia is used in regular dental offices. Oral surgeons also offer the procedure on an outpatient basis. Training is more closely regulated in the United Kingdom, where a postgraduate course required before this procedure is authorized.
Any form of oral surgery can involve nerves and sinus cavities, so the procedure must be carefully planned and executed. Modern computer scanning and plotting are used in up-to-date practices. Careful assessment of the angles of jaw bones is also needed to place the devices correctly.
These stabilizers are wonderful for those who wish to avoid dentures but have teeth that are too damaged or weakened to save. They also help those who already have dentures but find them too loose for comfort. Many millions of patients have taken advantage of this technology.
The use of dental implants has revolutionized dentistry. As the technology is perfected, more and more people will find replacement teeth almost as good as the real thing.