Dental implants have made huge strides in the past 50 years. In fact, implants have gone from a ‘fringe science’ with very poor success rates to an accepted mode of clinical practice with very high predictability and very high success rates.
For those who are not familiar with the term ‘dental implants’, they are a permanent, fixed (non-removable) replacement for missing teeth.
Implants come in wide array of shapes and sizes, and can be used to replace a single tooth, a row of teeth or an entire dental arch. Implants can support a removable denture, a fixed denture, a porcelain bridge or individual porcelain crowns.
Most if not all patients are candidates for dental implant placement, but there are factors which increase or decrease the chances for successful implant placement. For example, smokers tend to have lower success rates than non-smokers. Similarly, diabetic patients tend to have somewhat lower success rates. As well, the health of the jaw bone in the area of implant placement plays a major role in the success rate, and the ease or complexity of treatment required.
In order to place implants, there needs to be a certain quantity and quality of bone in the area of the missing tooth or teeth. Depending on how the teeth were lost originally (gum and bone disease or injury for example), it is sometimes necessary to replace damaged or missing bone with a bone grafting procedure.
In the past, implants required a lengthy period of integration (firm attachment of bone to the implant) before teeth could be attached to the implant. In the early days of implants, this integration period was up to six months. Typical integration periods today are in the range of 8-12 weeks, much shorter than previously.
But is there any validity to the concept of ‘Teeth in a Day’?
Some dental offices are marketing the concept of immediate tooth replacement enabling chewing on replacement teeth in one day. There is a newer technique which allows for an entire dental arch to be replaced using four implants and a fixed denture attached to the implants (known as the ‘All on Four’ technique). Early studies have shown this to be a viable treatment option for some people, however not everyone is a candidate for this approach.
Similarly, some offices are marketing a ‘same day’ solution for single tooth replacement. Again, patient selection must be made carefully, as not all situations lend themselves to this approach. The concept of integration of the implant over a period of time before placement of the tooth has been studied over many years and is ‘time tested’, whereas immediate chewing on an implant is newer, has less research behind it, and comes with greater risk of failure. Each patient is unique, and as a result each situation should be evaluated individually.
If you have questions about your own dental needs, or are curious to find out if you are a candidate for permanent tooth replacement with implants, it is best to consult with your dentist for detailed information and treatment recommendations.