What Are Dental Implants?

Dental Implants are a titanium, or more recently ceramic (zirconia), screw like device that is implanted into the bone to replace a missing tooth.  The term dental implant is commonly used to refer to the entire restoration, which includes the implant body and the restorative components that are placed above the bone to give the tooth its natural appearance.

Dental implants have a long history.   The first record of dental implants is found dating back about 4000 years ago when ancient Chinese, and later Egyptians, attempted to replace missing teeth by inserting various materials into bone. However, from the 1960’s onward, major advances have been made to make dental implants the ideal treatment for replacing missing teeth.

Technology used to place implants has also advanced greatly.  Early implants required surgical procedures, in which the gums were “flapped open”, and a small hole was drilled into the bone.  The implant was then placed, in a similar manner to a screw going into wood.  With modern 3D technologies, implant placement is now a minimally invasive procedure.  Often, the gum tissue does not require a flap and the implant can be placed using a guide.  This causes much less trauma, resulting in quicker healing and a more comfortable procedure.

Also, with 3D imaging and intra-oral scanning, implant cases can be precisely planned in advance of the actual procedure.  The 3D technology enables dentists to place the implant in the best possible location for bone fusion and esthetics of the final restoration.  And, multiple implants can be placed in a single visit.  In some cases, patients can have a full smile restored in just one day.

While technology has made implant placement quicker and more comfortable, patients should still be advised that it requires skill and experience.  Digital Implant Design Center on Manhattan’s Upper East Side  recommends patients seek an implant team that is specially trained in both placement and restoration for great long-term prognosis and esthetic outcome.  When placed and restored correctly, dental implants can last an entire lifetime.

For more information on dental implants visit the American Academy of Implant Dentistry site.