Already more comfortable and longer lasting than dentures and bridges as a solution for missing teeth, many people are benefiting from dental implants due to a variety of recent technological advancements.
For 40 years, dental implants imbedded in the jawbone have been a long-term solution for missing teeth, and many patients have benefited from these procedures. With the advent of advanced digital imaging combined with computerized navigation, oral and maxillofacial surgeons (OMSs) may be able to help those who before might not have been candidates for implants.
Previously, OMSs had to be able to see the bone, nerves and tissues involved to place the implant. Now, OMSs can perform the surgery using X-rays and computer navigation, similar to GPS in cars. Using the new technology, patients often have minimized swelling, are able to control pain with over-the-counter medicines such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen (instead of narcotic pain prescriptions) and may miss only one day of work. OMSs can sometimes replace a full set of teeth during one procedure.
The actual implants also have undergone improvements. Their surfaces bond with the jaws better, are more resilient and their parts fit more precisely. Implants of various sizes are available. For a patient with severe bone loss, a short or narrow implant can be used to avoid grafting to replace missing bone. That can improve the patient experience because he or she can avoid a more extensive procedure.
In some cases, bone used to be removed from elsewhere in the patient’s body and grafted onto the jaw. Now OMSs can use biomaterials – synthetic materials developed to be placed in living tissue – for replacing bone or soft tissue. Using these materials can lead to less invasive, more predictable treatments. In addition, growth factors and products derived from blood – such as platelet-rich plasma – are used to boost healing.
Dental implants are often the best treatment option for replacing missing teeth because they can last a lifetime, stay in place, look and feel like natural teeth and allow patients to enjoy a healthy, diverse diet. Dentures may move, make noise and result in bone loss. Fixed bridges require adjacent teeth to be reduced to accept crowns (frequently those teeth are normal and healthy).
In addition, both fixed bridges and dentures typically need to be replaced every seven to 15 years. Dental implants do not slip, make noise or decay, and, because they fuse with the jawbone, bone loss is usually not an issue.
OMSs are well-trained to perform all grafting, soft-tissue procedures and surgery to place dental implants. Consider these doctors if you are looking for a solution to missing teeth.
Dr. Brett L. Ferguson, President, American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons, [email protected]