implants - Background information
tooth roots made from titanium
Even our ancestors
were resourceful enough to be able to replace a tooth. In
ancient China teeth were carved from
ivory, the Estruscans developed track-like platforms from
gold or silver onto which they secured animal teeth – this
was perhaps the beginning of the denture. However, the one
disadvantage which these ‘antique’ tooth replacements
had was that they were generally all very unstable and could
only withstand biting and chewing to a certain degree.
Whether 3000 years ago or today: losing a tooth is a pain.
Those concerned can no longer chew as before and often the
overall aesthetics are affected. Thanks to the massive development
in modern dentistry nobody has to go without a ‘functional’ denture.
For a long time one has known about methods and ways to
replace a tooth, or more specifically the tooth’s crown.
Bridges, part or complete dentures can be seen in ‘everyone’s
mouth’ and can, in many cases, be very satisfactory.
This particular method of tooth replacement has, however,
a disadvantage: although the tooth’s crown has been
replaced, the root hasn’t.
If the root is missing, the
jawbone will degenerate
The root of the tooth serves a very
important function: on the one hand it supports the tooth
and on the other it
transfers the pressure from chewing onto the jawbone. This
is very important, as the jawbone needs this stimulation
in order to remain strong. As a muscle, the jawbone requires
a regular ‘workout’ to stay ‘fit’.
Just three months after having lost teeth, the bone retracts
considerably, because the stimulating function from the pressure
of chewing is missing. But there is no reason to worry, as
even at this stage a synthetic root can be placed. Anchored
into the jaw, they ensure that no more of the vital bone
Should the root not be replaced, the degeneration of the
jawbone slowly continues. If the bone also has to carry the
pressure of a denture, the process is further encouraged.
The end result can be the unwanted change to the face’s
structure; people with shrunken jawbones look older than
they really are. Synthetic titanium roots – this being
the correct description for tooth implants – can successfully
counteract this development.
Tooth implants fulfil the wishes of many people: permanent
false teeth. Whether it is about replacing one tooth as carefully
and ‘invisibly’ as possible, where there are
no longer healthy neighbouring teeth, to insert an implant
anchored bridge or to give a denture a firm and safe hold
with implants. Many patients consider implants to have given
them a new quality of life.
What exactly is a tooth implant?
An implant, a synthetic
tooth root, is usually a screw or cylinder form made out
of titanium. This cylinder is placed
in the upper or lower jaw, allowed to integrate with the
bone and serves to attach the tooth replacement, like for
instance a crown, bridge or denture.
When it comes to implants, titanium is today’s preferred
choice. It offers a highly mechanical carrying capacity,
is allergy free and heals well into the jawbone. Following
the process, the implant is anchored securely into the bone
as the root was before.
A certain amount of preparation is needed as well
a dentist specialising in implants can even start to place
an implant, he must have a good overview regarding
his patient’s health and status of the mouth. It is
particularly important to check the density of the jawbone
in order to determine if there is indeed enough bone to plant
a synthetic root. If the jawbone has already shrunk, the
dentist needs to rebuild the bone. The less time elapsed
between losing the tooth and the placement of an implant,
the more likely it is to find sufficient bone material.
Patience is a virtue
Once the basis has been established,
the procedure is ‘strategically
planned’ with the patient. This also includes the clarification
of costs, as it is only in exceptional cases that the state
health scheme will pay. Regarding private insured patients,
the insurer may pick up a part of the total costs depending
what is absolutely necessary. The timing issue is also discussed,
as depending on the situation of the bone density and whether
it is both the upper and lower jaw, which is to be implanted,
the treatment usually takes between four to eight months.
It all takes its time, until the bone has grown together
with the implant. But patience pays off: the success rate
of synthetic roots is very high – most patients are
still completely satisfied with their ‘permanent false
teeth’ ten years down the line. Consequently the success
rate is higher than a ‘rootless’ tooth replacement.
The operation is done on an out-patient basis
operation is done under local anaesthetic and is completely
painless. The first step is to open up the
gum to expose the jawbone. The place, onto which the root
is to be inserted, is carefully prepared where after the ‘titanium
body’ is planted into the bone. Usually the implant
is closed with a screw and the gum is stitched together over
the top. Protected by the gum the healing process can now
begin and the synthetic root can start to integrate into
the bone. Of course no one needs to leave the practice toothless
or with gaps. Immediately after the operation, the patient
is fitted with a provisional tooth replacement.
The result pleases the patient and the jawbone
the ‘healing phase’ the implants are
exposed again under local anaesthetic and the provision of
a denture begins, from taking an impression, the treatment
of the gums to the creation of the tooth replacement. Just
a few weeks later the custom-made tooth replacement, whether
a crown, bridge or denture can be fixed onto the securely
anchored titanium root. The result is a visually as well
as functionally perfect tooth replacement.
The patient can finally laugh, talk and chew again without
any restrictions and the jawbone has regained the all-important
chewing action, which it so needs.