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Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Implants

What are the advantages of implants over dentures?
The loss of a tooth or teeth can be emotionally devastating. The loss of a tooth affects the ability to chew and speak. The loss also creates open space into which the surrounding teeth can shift and move. This movement alters the normal anatomy around that now missing tooth, and can lead to gum problems, bone loss, tooth decay and significant bite problems.

Bridges and removable dentures can be used to fill the vacated space and provide a biting surface, but anchoring bridges on adjacent teeth can place stress and cause wear on those teeth. Removable dentures have a tendency to slip, interfering with conversation and chewing. The bone underlying bridges and dentures often gradually deteriorates, resulting in loose adjacent teeth or bite problems. In summary, implants are more comfortable and kinder to your mouth!

Is a dental implant painful?
Most implant patients do well with dental anesthetic (numbing) and, if necessary, light sedation (twilight sleep) to make the procedure painless. Afterwards, depending on the complexity of the surgery, there is little or no pain or discomfort. Patients typically go back to work the next day. The procedure of having a tooth removed is more uncomfortable than the placement of the typical dental implant. There are always exceptions, and Dr. Kratz will review these special circumstances with you.

What is the process of getting a dental implant like?
The process begins with an evaluation of the implant site and planning out the course of treatment with a trusted periodontal specialist or oral surgeon. In most cases, the procedure is quite simple. After thorough evaluation of your individual oral health circumstances, Dr. Kratz will direct the specialist to place a hollow screw, made out of titanium, into the jawbone. Dr. Kratz will then construct a temporary restoration to replace the missing tooth while the bone and gum tissue grow around the screw. At the proper time, Dr. Kratz will attach a natural-looking and durable prosthetic tooth (or bridge if multiple teeth are being replaced) to the screw.

How long will it take to start and finish an implant?
If a diseased tooth is to be replaced, it will be removed as gently as possible so as not to disturb the bone or gum tissues. If the tooth or teeth to be replaced are already lost, the bone to support the implant will be carefully evaluated prior to the implant being placed. The length of time is dependent on the individual patient and individualized plan of treatment. In many cases, it takes three to four months. Twenty years ago when a dental implant was placed, the healing time of the bone was six months in the upper jaw and four months in the lower jaw. Today, because of improvements in the surface of the implant and a better understanding of bone biology and healing, the time has been shortened to as little as eight weeks. A longer healing time may be recommended if the supportive bone is not dense.

If a tooth has been missing for a while, is the bone good enough for an implant?
When you lose a tooth, the supporting bone for that tooth breaks down by as much as 40% in the first four to six months after the loss of the tooth! A dental implant can help maintain much of the original bone that supported the tooth and prevent bone loss if the implant is placed in the mouth within a few weeks after the tooth is lost. If there has been bone loss, the patient still may have dental implants depending on how much bone has been lost.

Sometimes a bone grafting procedure is necessary to build up the density of the bone in which the implant screw will sit. In this case, a period of time is required for the bone graft to heal before the screw can be placed in the bone.

Are some people allergic to titanium?
I don't know of any reports of a true allergy to pure titanium. Titanium is a bone-loving metal that is used to replace all types of body parts, from knees and hips to holding prosthetic ears, noses and eyes in place. This is not to say that all dental implants successfully attach to the jawbone. Implants and implant-supported teeth can be lost. In 2004, The Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Implants reported a success rate of 97.5% after five years for implants that support individual teeth. The success rate for implants supporting a dental bridge was 92.8% after ten years. These numbers are very impressive when you consider the chewing forces that tooth replacements must withstand.

How do I take care of my implant?
Dental implants are kept clean like your natural teeth. Daily brushing and flossing are very important to maintain gum health. A schedule of regular cleaning appointments will be recommended for all your teeth. Periodically, Dr. Kratz will examine your implant, other restorations, and natural teeth to ensure they are still functioning as planned and all parts of your mouth are healthy.