Dental care treatment has become an absolute necessity for millions of people worldwide; in spite of improvements and advancements in dental care and health, people are afflicted by gum disease and tooth decay. Till a few decades ago, bridges and fixing dentures were two main options for treating people with missing, broken or in situations where teeth have to be surgically removed.
Modern day dental care includes dental implants that are replacement teeth roots. An implant can support one or more artificial teeth; the implant is a screw made of titanium that is fixed into the jawbone in place of a tooth root when it fails. They provide a strong foundation or base on which removable or permanent teeth can be fixed to match existing natural teeth.
There are many advantages to dental implants, some of which are:
• Greater comfort – dental implants can help avoid discomfort of fixing and removing dentures.
• Ease of chewing and eating food – dentures do not always fit 100%; with use they become less fitting and chances of slipping out while chewing food are high. With dental implants, this problem is eliminated.
• Better oral health – dental implants do not require other teeth to be modified or adjusted thus ensuring that more natural teeth are left unharmed thereby improving dental health and hygiene in the long-term.
• Improvement in appearance – since dental implants are so designed that they fuse with the jawbone; they become permanent and feel like natural teeth.
• Speech improvement – unlike slurring or mumbling sometimes caused by dentures, implants do not slip ensuring better speech and communication.
• More confidence and self esteem – a good smile brings back confidence and a spring in the step.
• Convenience – dentures have to be removed and cleaned everyday; with dental implants this is not necessary at all.
• Durability – dental plates can last a lifetime with proper care and regular dental check-up.
Most dental implants can be safely done in the dentist’s office under local anesthesia. A slightly more complicated procedure may require hospitalization and intravenous sedation. Every dental implant procedure is different because it involves the patient’s preference, the experience of the dental surgeon and the overall need of the situation.
The procedure usually necessitates a three-step process because each stage requires time to heal.
This involves placing the dental plate flush into the gum, burying it like the root of a tooth would be. This is to give time for healing and to protect the implant from force. Once the healing period is over, the dental implant is exposed by surgically removing some of the gum covering it. This integration process is known as ‘osseointegrate’.
In this step, the dental surgeon examines the implant to see if it has integrated successfully into the gum and places a post or ‘abutment’ which is drilled through the gum. As the area around the gum heals it forms a collar which gives the dentist access to the implant while placing the artificial or prosthetic tooth.
In some cases, steps 1 and 2 are done together within small intervals. The advantage is that it eliminates extra surgical procedure; however this is a decision to be made by the dental surgeon taking into account the time needed for the implant to heal and integrate.
The time gap between steps 1 and 2 if done at different times can be from a few days up to a couple of weeks.
The final step is the fabrication and fixing of the prosthetic tooth or teeth to the integrated dental implants.
Medical or Dental Insurance
Dental plates by and large are not included in dental insurance. Here again, the factors leading to the implant are considered and in some cases, insurance coverage under existing medical plan may be considered by the insurance company. As dental implants are an expensive treatment, it is advisable to consult a good dental surgeon and finds the pros and cons before opting for it.