What Do Rabbits Have to Do with Dental Implants?
The human body loves titanium. Bone accepts it like part of the family and quickly grows in and around titanium implants whether they are for knees, hips or teeth. We didn’t always know this though….
The scientists who discovered that bone loves titanium were actually working with rabbits. They used titanium screws during their experiment and quickly realized the screws had fused with the bone like a natural part of the body. This important process has a big name “osseointegration.” The titanium screws literally “integrate” or “become part of” the bone.
It didn’t take long for oral surgeons to see how these implantable screws could help people with loose dentures. A dental implant is basically a prosthetic tooth root that gets its strength and biocompatibility from specially surfaced titanium.
In the decades since those first implants, science has continued to advance and now provides a way not only to stabilize dentures, but to replace individual teeth or even whole arches of teeth using dental implants.
Why Does Replacing Missing Teeth Matter?
Teeth do so much more than just fill our smiles.
- Teeth chew our food and form the beginning of our digestive system.
- Teeth give our faces shape.
- Teeth keep our bone levels healthy.
- Teeth also help us talk and communicate.
Research shows that when people lose their teeth, chewing gets harder and they starting eating more soft foods. Research also shows that softer diets have more unhealthy, processed foods and contribute to life-shortening health problems.
When we lose teeth, we also lose bone. The face collapses when the teeth aren’t there to keep the bone in place and support the cheeks. Bone loss is a health risk that makes us look older.
With bone loss, bone from the jaws and sinus floors thin out, leaving less protection for the face and head during accidents. Getting hit in the face by a grandchild’s elbow or in a car accident can cause facial collapse in a person with severe bone loss.
Losing teeth also impacts how people speak, smile and laugh. People with tooth loss often stop smiling and start avoiding social situations, especially if they involve food. All of this has a psychological price and contributes to depression, lack of confidence and loneliness.
Replacing missing teeth is important because our teeth are an critical part of who we are and how we live.
What’s the Ideal Way to Replace Missing Teeth?
Life-like and optimally functional, dental implants are revolutionizing not only how we replace teeth – Implants are revolutionizing how we age.
Dental Implants are the only solution that replaces missing teeth and solves all the problems that missing teeth cause:
- Dental implants stop bone loss.
- They keep teeth from shifting.
- They look fantastic.
- They are stronger than natural teeth.
- They can’t ever get cavities.
Dental Implants: Amazingly Adaptable
Unlike bridges or dentures that only solve one kind of missing tooth problem, dental implants can solve any missing tooth problem. Dental implants can replace individual missing teeth, several missing teeth or entire arches of missing teeth. They are also incredibly adaptable as people lose teeth. Individual implants can later be used to anchor bridges or dentures.
- Single Tooth Implant Solutions:
Because dental implants are artificial tooth roots, it’s possible to replace one or many missing teeth with individual implants and crowns. These teeth will look and function like new teeth, creating a beautiful, natural smile.
- Multiple Tooth Implant Solutions:
There are several options for replacing multiple missing teeth with implants. As we mentioned above, you can replace every missing tooth with an individual implant. Although this is an ideal solution, it can get costly if you’re missing lots of teeth.
A less expensive option is to place fewer implants and restore them with bridges. Implant bridges only stop bone loss where the implants are, but the overall benefit of implant bridges is still superior to partials or dentures. Implant bridges will be stronger, healthier, longer lasting, and more natural looking. Implant bridges are also a fixed solution for missing teeth that is very comfortable.
- Full Arch Implant Solutions:
What if you’re missing all of your upper or lower teeth?
Depending on bone health and your budget, there are three main ways to replace all the teeth in an arch (an arch is what we can the upper or lower jaw).
- You can replace all the teeth with individual dental implants. This is going to be the most ideal as well as the most expensive. Because of the cost, very few patients opt for a full arch of dental implants unless they already have several implants placed.
- A second option is what most people call “All-on-4.” With All-on-4, a full new set of teeth is placed on at least four dental implants. All-on-4 slows facial bone loss in the areas around the implants and is beautiful and strong. Our patients also love that it is fixed and not removable.
- The least expensive dental implant solution for a complete arch of missing teeth is an overdenture, a denture that snaps onto two or four implants. Overdentures still have to be removed every night for cleaning, but they are far superior to regular dentures. The implants keep them stable and absorb the pressure of chewing. They are more comfortable and more functional than traditional dentures.
Dental Implants: When Technology Matters
Dental implants are an entirely new kind of dentistry that requires special equipment to be successful.
- 3D CT Scans:Never get an implant without a 3D CT Scan. It’s easy to damage nerves or bone without a 3D CT Scan of your jaws and teeth. These scans, also called Conebeam CT’s, use powerful 3D imaging technology that reveals exactly what’s inside your gums. This scan allows a dentist to examine bone, nerves, and tooth roots before, during and after implant placement surgery. These scans also enable detailed surgery planning for the best outcome.
- Surgical Guides: A surgical guide ensures implants are placed exactly where they need to go. Each guide is custom designed to match your teeth and bone using the 3D CT Scan during surgical planning. The guide holes make sure that each implant is placed at the precisely the right place and angle. The guide also stops the implants from going too deep into the jawbone. This kind of precision is not possible placing implants “freehand.”
- Ideal Implant Surface Structure: Bone is picky. It doesn’t love all titanium the same. Some implants have a specially engineered surface that is proven to speed healing and improve osseointegration. Other implants only have a basic surface that works most of the time. We only used implants with the special surface engineering.
Aren’t Implants Too Expensive?
It’s true that single implants are more expensive than fillings, and many implants are more expensive than dentures. Implants and bridges are usually similar in price. The truth is that you know your own budget and you always have choices between lower and higher priced options. Our office works hard to find solutions and financing options for every budget. Our goal is to see San Antonio healthier and we are committed to helping you too.