Dental Implants

Dental implants are changing the way people live. They are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel, and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. Patients with dental implants can smile with confidence.

What Are Dental Implants?

The implants themselves are tiny titanium posts that are surgically placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. These metal (titanium) and Non-metal (zirconia) anchors act as tooth root substitutes. The bone bonds with the titanium or zirconia, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. Small posts that protrude through the gums are then attached to the implant. These posts provide stable anchors for artificial replacement teeth.

Not only do dental implants look, feel and perform like your healthy, natural teeth, they also help preserve facial structure by preventing bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.

The Surgical Procedure

For most patients, the placement of dental implants involves two surgical procedures. First, implants are placed within your jawbone. For the first three to six months following surgery, the implants are beneath the surface of the gums gradually bonding with the jawbone. You should be able to wear temporary dentures and eat a soft diet during this time. At the same time, your dentist is forming new replacement teeth.

After the implant has bonded to the jawbone, the second phase begins. Dr. Benjamin Foley and Dr. Thao Le will uncover the implants and attach small posts that protrude through the gums and will act as anchors for the artificial teeth. When the artificial teeth are placed, these posts will not be seen. The entire procedure usually takes six to eight months. Most patients experience minimal disruption in their daily life.

Surgical Advances

Using the most recent advances in dental implant technology, Drs. Benjamin Foley and Thao Le is able to place single stage implants. These implants do not require a second procedure to uncover them, but do require a minimum of twelve weeks of healing time before artificial teeth are placed. There are even situations where the implants can be placed at the same time as a tooth extraction – further minimizing the number of surgical procedures.

Dental Implant placement is a team effort between an oral and maxillofacial surgeon and a restorative dentist. While Drs. Benjamin Foley and Thao Le perform the actual implant surgery, initial tooth extractions, and bone grafting if necessary, the restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.

What Options Do You Have To Replace Your Teeth?

  1. Do Nothing: This is an option for many patients who do not care to replace their missing tooth or can not afford replacement. If a tooth is not replaced the teeth behind a missing tooth may eventually drift into the unfilled space and result in an unaesthetic smile or lead to gum disease. Over time there may be bone loss in the area of the missing tooth.
  2. Fixed Bridge: A fixed bridge may require the cutting down of healthy adjacent teeth. Unlike a dental implant, fixed bridges can fail because of dental caries. In general, a fixed bridge needs to be replaced every 15 years, which represents a significant future cost. Over time there may be bone loss in the area of the missing tooth.
  3. Removable Partial Denture: This is often the most affordable option to replace a tooth, however, there are many disadvantages. First, research has shown that removable partial dentures contribute to the loss of adjacent teeth. Second, over time there may be bone loss in the area of the missing tooth. Third, to help keep the soft tissue (gums) healthy, removable partial dentures should be taken out at night and for cleaning after meals. To some people this is very embarrassing.  Lastly, removable partial dentures usually require replacement within 15 years.
  4. Dental Implants: Implants often represent the best treatment option. Dental implants do not impact adjacent teeth or lead to bone loss. In general, dental implants seldom need replacement once they have fused with the bone.

What Types Of Prosthesis Are Available?

A single prosthesis (crown) is used to replace one missing tooth – each prosthetic tooth attaches to its own implant. A partial prosthesis (fixed bridge) can replace two or more teeth and may require only two or three implants. A complete dental prosthesis (fixed bridge) replaces all the teeth in your upper or lower jaw. The number of implants varies depending upon which type of complete prosthesis (removable or fixed) is recommended. A removable prosthesis (over denture) attaches to a bar or ball in socket attachments, whereas a fixed prosthesis is permanent and removable only by the dentist.

The majority of implant surgeries are performed in-office either with local or intravenous anesthesia. Inpatient hospital implant surgery is for patients who have special medical or anesthetic needs or for those who need extensive bone grafting from the jaw, hip or tibia.

Why Dental Implants?

Dental implants help restore chewing function and the quality of life in patients who have lost teeth and are unhappy with their current dental prosthesis. When you lose several teeth – whether it’s a new situation or something you have lived with for years – chances are you have never become fully accustomed to losing such a vital part of yourself.

Dental implants can be your doorway to renewed self-confidence and peace of mind.

In the 1950’s a Swedish scientist and orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark, discovered that when titanium is implanted into bone the two safety fuse. Over the next twenty years, he used his discovery to develop the concept of oral rehabilitation with dental implants. With his pioneering research, Dr. Branemark opened the door to a lifetime of renewed comfort and self-confidence for millions of individuals facing the frustration and embarrassment of tooth loss.

Why Select Dental Implants Over More Traditional Types Of Restorations?

There are several reasons:

  • Why sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge a space? If only a single tooth is being replaced with a traditional fixed bridge, the teeth on either side of the missing tooth need to be cut and reshaped so a crowns can be placed. If a patient has healthy teeth next to the missing tooth a dental implant can be an ideal replacement that does not require the sacrifice of healthy tooth structure. In addition, a single dental implant is very easy to clean and floss because it is not attached to the adjacent teeth like a fixed bridge.
  • Implant supported removable dentures restore your ability to eat many of the foods you crave but are unable to chew with your existing denture. In addition they will allow you to speak clearly and confidently without embarrassing clicking noises or slipping dentures.
  • Removing a denture or a “partial” at night or following meals to clean may be inconvenient and embarrassing. Fixed dentures allow patients to brush and floss around their implants and dentures without removing their prosthesis. In addition these dentures do not need to be removed at night.

Are You A Candidate For Implants?

If you are considering implants, your mouth must be examined thoroughly and your medical and dental history reviewed. It is very important that you inform us of all your medical problems, allergies and medications you are taking. At the time of your examination several x-rays and other diagnostic tests, such as a CT scan, may be acquired to provide us with information about your jawbone anatomy, and to assist in the development of your dental implant plan.  If your mouth is not ideal for implants, ways of improving outcome, such as bone grafting, may be recommended.

What Type Of Anesthesia Is Used?

Dental implants and bone grafting can be performed in the office under local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide/oxygen analgesia) I.V. moderate sedation or I.V. general anesthesia. Anesthesia selection depends upon the patient’s health, anxiety and desired level of comfort.

  1.  Local Anesthesia – May be used alone or with sedation to “numb” teeth to be removed.  Numbness may last up to 8 hours.  All patients receive local anesthesia whether fully awake or sedated.
  2. Nitrous Oxide (“laughing gas”) – Provides light sedation. You are aware of your surroundings, and you will remember the procedure.  Local anesthesia must always be used.
  3. I.V. Moderate Sedation – An IV line is started for administration of sedative drugs.  You will be very relaxed but conscious.  You may remember some aspects of the procedure.  Most patients are comfortable with this level of anesthesia for most Clinic procedures.
  4. I.V. Deep Sedation – This is similar to moderate sedation except that you will not be conscious and will not have any significant recall for the surgery.

With all forms of I.V. sedation you must arrange to have a responsible adult with you at the check-in, remain in the Clinic during the procedure, and be available to drive you home after surgery.  You must not eat or drink anything after midnight prior to a morning appointment.  Woman of child-bearing age may be asked to provide a urine specimen after arrival to clinic for a pregnancy test.  

Our services are provided in an environment of optimum safety that utilizes modern monitoring equipment and staff who are experienced in anesthesia techniques.

If you would like more information before your consultation regarding the above anesthetic options please read Anesthesia Surgical Instructions.

Do Implants Need Special Care?

Once the implants are in place, they will serve you well for many years if you take care of them and keep your mouth healthy. This means taking the time for good daily oral hygiene (brushing and flossing) and keeping regular appointments with your dental specialists.

What Are The Known Risks And Complications Of Dental Implants?

Dental implants have a 95% success rate and the surgery to place the implants is generally very safe. However, as with any surgical procedure, there are known risks and complications of dental implant placement. Fortunately the majority of the complications occur very infrequently. Following surgery a patient should expect to have some swelling, bruising and mild to moderate discomfort. Some patients experience jaw joint (TMJ) and jaw muscle stiffness and pain, this improves with time. There is also a risk of infection, injury to adjacent teeth, implant failure, loss or alteration of nerve sensation to the teeth, lips, chin and/or tongue, sinus infection, bone loss and jaw fracture. We will discuss each of these complications with you further at the time of your consultation and be happy to answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Can I Still Have A Dental Implant If I Do Not Want Metal In My Body?

Thanks to new developments in implant dentistry there are now non-metal zircona implants available for the patient who practices a wholistic lifestyle or is allergic to titanium. There are some limitations with these types of implants and are dependent upon the bone quality and volume of the patient. Following a consultation the doctors will be able to let you know if you are a candidate for a metal free zirconia implant.