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Tooth implants - Background information

Synthetic 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 is lost.

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
Before 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
The actual 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
Following 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.


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