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For The Independent Health Issue
June 6, 2006

Dental Implants Let Patients Smile Again
By Dr. Tareq Khalifeh, DDS, DMD

Tooth loss is a sad reality for millions of Americans. The best solution is prevention, of course. But if an accident, severe tooth decay, or periodontal disease have left you with a gap in your smile, take heart. Working with a qualified dentist trained in the science of tooth replacement, almost anyone can recover the ability to chew, talk, and smile without discomfort or embarrassment.

The most permanent and successful method for replacing teeth is called a dental implant. The dental implant is an artificial tooth that is surgically placed below the gumline and fused with the jawbone. This implanted root provides the base to hold a replacement tooth (crown), or a set of teeth (a “partial denture” or “bridge”).

 

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Implant technology offers numerous advantages over older tooth replacement procedures. Typical dentures and bridges require some type of bonding agent to stay in place during use, and then must be removed for thorough cleaning. Many patients complain that they don’t stay in place very well, making everyday conversations and activities uncomfortable.

The dental implant, by contrast, is extremely secure. Patients often claim they forget they even have them. The reason for this tight fit is the integration of the tooth base with the jawbone. Moreover, the implant does not rely on surrounding teeth to provide support for the prosthetic tooth or teeth, leading to better oral health in the long-term.

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, which furthers the science and practice of gum disease diagnosis and treatment and of tooth replacement, long-term studies continue to show improving rates of success for implants. Implants are being widely used now to:

  • Replace one or more teeth without affecting bordering teeth.
  • Support a bridge and eliminate the need for a removable partial denture.
  • Provide support for a denture, making it more secure and comfortable.

Candidates for Dental Implants
Not every patient can take advantage of dental implant technology. The three most important criteria are:

  1. You are in good general health. Dental implants are a surgical procedure requiring up to several hours on the initial visit and a series of follow-up visits to fit and place the prosthetic tooth (or teeth) after the bone and gum heal from the initial procedure. As with any surgery, implants should only be undertaken when your immune system is strong and you are able to withstand the physical stress of a surgical procedure.
  2. Your oral health is reasonably good and you are free of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease, a chronic bacterial infection that affects the gums and bone supporting the teeth, afflicts nearly one in three U.S. adults between the ages of 30 and 54. Half of U.S. residents aged 55 to 90 have some form of periodontitis, or more advanced stages of the disease. It is usually caused by poor dental hygiene, and can be stopped and even reversed to some degree with proper intervention.
  3. You have sufficient bone structure and bone health to support the implant. There are some periodontal surgical procedures that can correct for insufficient bone quantity or for deformities that make it difficult to successfully place dental implants. For example, sinus augmentation can sometimes raise the sinus floor and develop bone for the placement of dental implants in the back of the jaw.

The most common implant procedure is the endosteal implant, which places a metal framework into the jawbone itself. This procedure is used as an alternative to bridges and partial dentures. Some patients who cannot have this procedure because of minimal bone height can still benefit from a subperiosteal dental implant. In this procedure, a metal structure is placed on top of the bone rather than in the bone. Metal posts protruding from this structure through the gums hold the prosthetic tooth securely in place.

Your dentist can help you determine whether you are a candidate for dental implants and, if properly trained in dental implant technology, can perform the implant procedure itself. If more advanced periodontal surgery is required, your dentist will work in partnership with a periodontist to ensure a successful outcome.

Good Home Care Essential
Good oral hygiene is as critical with artificial teeth as it is with your own teeth. Dental implant patients must be diligent about keeping the implant(s) clean by using proper brushing and flossing techniques. Also essential to long-term success is maintaining a regular follow-up schedule of visits with your dentist and your periodontist, if one was involved in the surgical team.

With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime. That is one of the unique advantages of this approach to tooth replacement. For more information, consult the Websites of the American Dental Association (www.ada.org) and the American Academy of Periodontology www.perio.org).

Dr. Khalifeh owns the Philmont Family Dentistry located on Rte 217 in Philmont, NY. A graduate of the New York City School of Dentistry, he completed his residency at Albany Medical Center and practiced in Albany until 2004. For more information, call 672-4077.

 

 

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