Once considered a poor choice for older adults with weakening bones, dental implants have come on leaps and bounds in recent years. To the extent, dental implants are now considered far better than dentures as a replacement tooth treatment for this particular sector of society.
For a start, a dental implant won’t get lost or misplaced the way a bridge or dentures would – either by the wearer or a care worker. And secondly, they pose no choking risk for the wearer. Finally, implants won’t cause sore, swelling gums and infections like dentures or bridges when constantly taken in and out of the mouth.
Common types of dental implants
Dental implants have been used to treat gaps left by missing teeth in the mouth for more than four decades. But it’s only within the past decade that they have become increasingly more affordable, thanks to the large number of dentists offering them. There are various types of dental implants, such as:
Single and multiple implants
To install an implant in a patient’s mouth, the dentist places a titanium screw into the jawbone precisely at the location of the missing tooth root. Eventually, the implant and the bone fuse together (a natural biological process known as osseointegration). After this has occurred the replacement tooth is placed on top. Treatment can take anything from four to nine months
Implant support bridge
An individual with more than one missing tooth in a row will sometimes fare far better with an implant bridge. This is where implants are put into the jawbone to fuse with the bone. Once this happens, abutment posts are attached to the implants and a bridge placed on top to secure them. This usually takes around five months, and with support treatment, e.g. a bone graft beforehand can be up to eight months.
Implant-supported dentures (also referred to as ‘clip in’ dentures) have an acrylic base which is attached to the dental implants. They’re more secure than traditional dentures because they clip on. The dentures come with a bar which can clip onto the implants. This means it can be removed to clean. Treatment time for this method is up to seven months, but can be as little as four months.
Immediate load dental implants
Getting immediate loading dental implants involves having a dental prosthesis fixed at the same time as the dental implants are installed. This allows the treatment to be completed within a day. The patient is given intravenous sedation, and the teeth are extracted. The bone where the dental implants will go is remodelled. Up to eight dental implants are then installed in the jawbone.
The prosthesis (new teeth) are then fixed onto the implants. This has been made in advance and usually only requires minor adjustments while the individual is being operated on. This is to be worn for three months until a permanent prosthesis is prepared and fitted.
The benefit of immediate loading dental implants is that after around four hours, the individual can use their teeth as ‘normal’, which means they can go back to work, socialise, eat etc., without feeling embarrassed about missing teeth. In the past, patients often had to wait between three to six months after the implant was fitted before getting their new teeth.
An individual has to fulfil certain conditions before being given the all-clear for immediate load dental implants. For instance, they need to be healthy (i.e. with no underlying medical conditions), have good oral hygiene, plenty of bone volume and doesn’t have a history of grinding their teeth while sleeping etc.
US Medicare and dental implants
Individuals in America on a Medicare Advantage plan may find that they are eligible to have the cost of their dental implants covered. This is under the Medicare Section C part of the plan, where users can take out a stand-alone dental plan. Doing this means they can avoid paying the full cost of their dental treatment – provided their dental plan does indeed cover implants (some don’t, so it’s always worth checking).
What are the best dental implant brands?
All dental implants are made from titanium. That’s because the material is the most biologically compatible material for the human body. They do vary, however, in terms of thickness and size. Thin implants, for instance, measure 2 to 3.5mm, standard size implants are 3.5 to 4.2mm, while large implants are 4.5 to 6mm (usually used for back molars).
Dentists tend to specialise in particular brands, and it’s worth finding out beforehand if they deal with the one you prefer. The premium brands are Straumann and Nobel Biocare, whereas Alpha-Bio and DIO are mid-range brands. Nobel Biocare tends to be the best-known dental implant brand globally.