My dentist recently recommended osseointegrated dental implants. What are dental implants and are they safe?
Osseointegrated dental implants are the state of the art in modern dentistry. They are small titanium “fixtures” that take the place of the natural root of the tooth. Gently implanted into the bone, using local anesthesia, these very tiny titanium roots actually bond or integrate with a patient’s bone, more securely than natural root would. Most often, the osseointegrated implant is more stable than a natural tooth’s root. Upon these implants, a prosthodontist can build permanent teeth, custom designed and shaded to aesthetically suit each patient’s distinctive facial requirements.
Sophisticated research for more than three decades in the United States and abroad has recognized titanium for its biological compatibility with the human body. Studies have shown that the earliest patients treated with these modern osseointegrated implants continue to enjoy healthy, stable smiles.
Nearly all implant procedures are performed with local anesthesia in a comfortable dental chair. No pain is felt during the surgical procedures. Depending upon the number of implants placed, there may be swelling and/or tenderness for a few days following the surgery. Pain medication is usually prescribed which alleviates this discomfort. Patients generally prefer a soft foods diet for the healing period following surgery. Cold foods and tepid soups are suggested, as they aid in reducing swelling.
The entire osseointegration process and the building of the new teeth can be accomplished in as little as three months, though the upper teeth or replacing a complete denture with permanent teeth normally requires five to six months.
Dental implant patients range from age nine to 99. A single congenitally missing tooth can dramatically change the life of a child; the replacement of dentures in an older patient can make the golden years more fulfilling, and considerably gentler to both the digestive tract and the cardiovascular system. Generally, only patients with rare blood diseases, leukemia, or patients being treated with chemotherapy are contraindicated. Patients who have successfully undergone cancer therapy and received permission from their oncologist may benefit from implant treatment.
Thomas J. Balshi, DDS, PhD, FACP
Glenn J. Wolfinger, DMD