Most people know that missing teeth can be replaced with crowns or dentures, but not many know that they have the option of dental implants. These implants mimic natural teeth, and do not require daily removal and special cleaning procedures. While they can be expensive, they are long-lasting and can be used to support other dental appliances including bridges.
Almost all implants used today are implanted into the bone and resemble actual teeth roots, as opposed to the older methods that used a flat blade-like structure or a framework implanted into the jaw bones using screws. The use of this type of dental appliance dates back to the Mayan civilization, when pieces of shell or other durable substances were used to replace missing teeth. While scientists originally thought these replacements were inserted after death, Professor Amadio Bobbio discovered that bone had grown, or integrated, with the materials indicating that they were inserted during life. In the 1950s and 1960s, studies at Cambridge University and by Swedish orthopedic surgeon P.I. Branemark began using titanium in studies relating to bone restoration and blood flow in vivo. These studies confirmed that titanium allowed bone to grow and integrate so tightly around the bone that it effectively adhered to the metal.
Several more years of research and clinical trials resulted in a patent for titanium dental implants in the United States in 1969. Over the following decades, more than seven million Branemark system implants have been places and hundreds of companies produce and manufacture them. Current researchers are developing newer technologies using zirconium and ceramics for this procedure, although it could be many years before these materials replace titanium in usage for maxillofacial prosthesis.
This type of appliance requires a tapered screw resembling a tooth root be inserted into the socket, or bone, of a missing tooth. This can be performed either immediately after the removal of a tooth or after the site has completely healed. After the surgery is performed, the titanium root must osseointegrate, or allow the bone to grow and adhere to the appliance. This amount of time varies from person to person, but can be as long as 18 months. After the integration of the bone is complete, the actual crown or prosthetic tooth is placed on the titanium root. The success rate for this type of surgery is about 95 percent, if the patient is generally healthy and does not need other procedures such as sinus lifting as well as the implant surgery.
Prosthetic teeth do not have to be removed and can be cared for as if they were natural teeth. They are not prone to cavities and mimic the natural shape of the patient's tooth, preserving the natural bite of the patient. There can be risks involved in all types of surgery, and only an oral surgeon can decide if your situation and general health will allow this type of prosthetic to be used. It is important to ask your surgeon about all of the options and risks before deciding what is right for your situation and overall health.
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