The columnist Jane Brody wrote a wonderful piece about implants in Tuesday’s New York Times. I couldn’t have written it better myself, and I only found one error! (She says that implants usually take about eight weeks to integrate to bone – but I would say that 3 to 6 months is more predictable.) She writes about her own tooth problems and about the first molar that she lost when she was in her 20’s and the resulting bridge that had to be replaced several times in the subsequent years. She recently elected to have implants placed in order to replace the two teeth that were now missing due to decay and gum disease. She gives the reasons that implants are superior to the conventional bridge: A bridge is not as permanent as an implant, the bridge is harder to keep clean, implants do not decay, and adjacent teeth do not have to be reduced for supporting crowns.
The implant procedure involves surgical placement by an oral surgeon or periodontist of a titanium screw, or implant, into the jawbone. The implant then has to integrate with the bone for 3 – 6 months, at which time the restorative dentist attaches an abutment, which is a connector to which a crown is then cemented. The restorative dentist needs to do the treatment plan and closely coordinate the treatment with the periodontist.
Almost 500,000 implants are placed in the United States each year! A patient’s health and quality of bone will affect their suitability for implants. A patient who is a diabetic or who smokes has a poorer blood supply and this will lessen the chance of success.