Implants: The Game Changer in Dentistryby Dr. Richard Janis on 09/16/13
“A game changer.” “One of the best things to ever happen in dentistry.” I have been to many dental courses about implants and these are some of the things I have heard from leaders in the field about dental implants. I tend to agree. I have been practicing for over 20 years and implants more than anything else have allowed us to improve the quality of our patients’ lives.
What are implants? Simply put, they are a titanium rod or post that is surgically placed in the bone. Over a period of months, the implant integrates into the bone, a truly revolutionary development. After the integration, an abutment or post and then a crown are placed on the implant and this is stable. The crown will look just like any other crown and most patients say that they function so normally that they lose awareness that they even have an implant.
Implants are the best way to replace a missing tooth and their advantages are numerous. They can never decay as they are made of titanium. They can restore chewing function without damaging the teeth next to them. A bridge is also a way to replace a missing tooth by grinding down the adjacent teeth and creating a framework that will include a replacement for the missing tooth. However, this is in most cases not desirable as the adjacent teeth become more susceptible to decay, the potential need for a root canal, and periodontal disease. The beauty of an implant is that the adjacent teeth are not touched at all. Although implants cannot decay, they can develop periodontal disease and patients are cautioned to maintain their normal oral hygiene with them.
To replace a missing tooth, an implant costs about 25-30% more than a 3 unit bridge. Insurance will sometimes pay for part of the implant. Insurance companies are starting to see that it is cost effective to pay for an implant because there is no risk of harming the adjacent teeth, unlike a bridge, which may lead to more costly treatment later. Of course, if more implants are needed, the cost differential between them and a bridge goes up but I would still recommend implants. I have yet to have a patient regret doing implants.
Another use for implants is to stabilize a loose denture. In most cases, a full lower denture lacks retention, due to the bone resorption of the lower jaw. Very few people are satisfied with their lower denture but that has changed with implants. The placement of two implants in the lower jaw can dramatically increase retention in a lower denture. In fact, I don’t think there is another procedure in all of dentistry that can give a greater increase in quality of life because it allows a patient to chew and function in a way that they could not before.
Age is rarely a factor in doing implants. I have had young patients who never developed certain permanent teeth get implants in their 20s and I have had patients in their 80s get them and be very satisfied. I urge anyone who is thinking of replacing any missing teeth to consider dental implants.