Developments in Dental Implants

***UPDATED: July 16, 2013*** A new report published in the International Journal of Oral & Maxillofacial Implants shows that dental implants offer not only effective replacement treatment for missing teeth, but are also more cost-effective than traditional treatments.  This conclusion was drawn after reviewing 14 studies conducted on the long-term costs of a variety of tooth replacement options.  For single-tooth replacement, implant treatments proved to be more cost-effective when compared to the more traditional bridge.  When considering patients with full dentures, implants were found to have a higher initial cost, however most studies found that over the long-term, implants were more cost-effective.  Additionally, patients were more satisfied and willing to pay for dental implants as they provided a higher health-related quality of life and decreased health care costs overall.

Every year, millions of Americans suffer from tooth loss, often times due to tooth decay, gingivitis, or accidents.  Previously, the best treatment for loss was dentures or bridges, but today dental implants are gaining popularity.  Implants are replacement roots that provide a strong foundation for replacement teeth that are custom made to match your natural teeth.  In addition to looking and feeling great, dental implants boast several advantages.  They are designed to fuse with bone, becoming permanent, which eliminates the issues often found with temporary fixes, such as speech problems, embarrassing eating mishaps, or messy adhesive troubles.  With proper care, they are built to last years, some even lasting a lifetime.  The success rates of dental implants vary, but in general, they are successful up to 98% of the time.  Most healthy patients are good candidates for the procedure, provided they are able to undergo oral surgery and have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant.  The elderly, smokers, those suffering from diabetes or heart disease, and others with a variety of health concerns are typically unable to undergo the procedure at this point, but thanks to new research, that may be changing in the near future.

A recent article in the Dental Tribune International (“Researchers increase success rate of tooth implants”) describes a process by which scientists in Spain have been able to increase the overall success rate of implants though an enhanced biocompatibility and reduction of osseiointegration time.  According to Julio Jose Suay, coordinator of the research group, the implant is covered with a biodegradable coating which dissolves upon contact with the bone, releasing a silicon compound that promotes bone generation.  This will allow for the ceramic crown that replaces the visible part of the tooth to be placed sooner, shortening the overall recovery time.  The ultimate goal of the research is to improve the success rates of dental implants, especially in higher risk patients with jawbone deficiencies.  The prototype is still in the clinical evaluation stage and a marketable, sterile product could be expected sometime in the next two to three years.

Replacing lost teeth is very important, not only from an aesthetic stand-point, but from an oral health one too.  When a tooth is not replaced, it can change the bite line, altering the form and function of the surrounding teeth.  If periodontal disease is to blame for the loss, it will likely affect more teeth and the support structures of the jaw if not addressed and treated, ultimately leading to the loss of more teeth.  I’ve also never met anyone who was proud of the way their smile looked after losing a tooth (except my 7-year-old niece), and since a person’s smile is the first attribute noticed by others, I’d venture to say that replacing a lost tooth would do wonders for a person’s self-image and esteem.  With advancements in dental technology, the dental implant procedure has become relatively routine, and can even be completed virtually pain and stress-free.  Find out if you’re a candidate, and talk to your dentist today.

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