It is not an exaggeration to say that permanent tooth replacement with dental implants has revolutionized dentistry, transforming the lives of adults of all ages. People who have suffered premature loss of their natural teeth, now have an option that is by far more comfortable, reassuring and reliable than removable dentures.
Consequences of losing our natural teeth
When you lose natural teeth, you also end up losing the bone that supports it, a phenomenon known as bone atrophy. In other words, the bone literally melts away with time since it no longer serves a functional purpose. All these eventually leads to aesthetic and chewing problems, especially for people who have lost all their teeth. People who have lost all their teeth also suffer from over closure of the mouth, leading to a shortened lower third of the face, and a sunken or hollowed out appearance of the cheeks and lips. Such people do not only look older, they often feel older!
Dental implants, like natural teeth has the ability to stimulate the bone supporting it, thus maintaining its physical dimension and strength. This is something that fixed and removable dentures cannot do.
Immediate dental implants
People who live in developed cities, like Singapore live busy lives. These individuals often prefer their dental treatment to be completed as efficiently as possible so that they can resume their normal lifestyles. Over the last decade, great strides have been made in the field of implant dentistry and today, dental implants can be placed and restored within the same day in selected cases.
Immediate implant techniques require great care to ensure that the dental implant is stable after initial placement, fully encased in healthy bone, free from infection and protected from heavy biting forces. The technique can be used to replace a single tooth or an entire set of dentition on either jaw using the All-on-4® treatment concept.
Since bone healing takes time, it is best to consume a soft diet (that means avoiding hard, tough or crunchy food) for the next 8 weeks. Implant supported teeth are maintained with the same oral hygiene practices, such as brushing and flossing. It is essential to adopt a consistent and good level of personal oral hygiene as well as attend routine dental cleaning visits.
Shooting for success
Implant care begins with proper assessment and planning at the start. Your dentist will conduct a visual examination, followed by x-ray imaging or CT scans of your mouth. Using computer aided design software, the best position for the dental implant restoration is determined.
If multiple dental implants are used, a surgical guide may be made to ensure that the implants are placed at the precise location where they will offer the most support to the final restoration. Skill, experience and attention to details will be needed.
The implants are initially restored with a temporary restoration, which can be either a dental crown, dental bridge or an overdenture, depending on the case. The temporary restorations are designed to restore function and facilitating healing. As there may be little post-surgery discomfort, patients are reminded to eat a soft diet to prevent overloading the implant during the healing period, for the next three months.
The final restoration is placed after healing is complete. It is made of more durable materials and better fitted around the gums, giving it a more natural and beautiful appearance.
Dawn of a new era
A great number of individuals who know that they are about to lose their teeth, often fight very hard to save them, enduring significant suffering, inconvenience and even an unsightly appearance. Dental implants have helped many such individuals regain their enjoyment of food – eating fresh fruits, meat and vegetables, laughing, kissing and speaking confidently.
Over the last four decades, dentists have learnt how to place and restore dental implants predictably. We also appreciate the fact that to fully restore the human dentition, we do not need to adopt a “one implant for each tooth” replacement regime. As with some things in life, less can indeed be more in some situations.