Since its invention in 1965, dental implants have helped millions of people in the U.S. and worldwide restore their smiles and improve their quality of life. Dental implant surgery involves the replacement of tooth roots with metal, screw-like posts that replace damaged or missing teeth with artificial teeth that look and function similarly to natural teeth. Dental implant surgery can be a good alternative to ill-fitting dentures or bridgework. It can also be a good option when there aren’t enough natural teeth roots to make dentures or bridgework tooth replacements. Dental implants offer several benefits, including enhanced appearance, comfort, oral health, durability, and convenience.
The Most Common Types of Dental Implant Materials
Almost all dental implants were made from titanium and titanium alloy for many years in the dental industry. But with the advances in technology and research, dental implants are now made from various materials, each with unique properties and advantages. These dental materials are biocompatible, meaning they interact well with the human body and are resistant to both fracturing and corrosion.
Here are some of the most common types of implant materials:
- Titanium – This material is by far the most preferred material for dental implants, as it is proven to encourage the osseointegration process and is comparatively more affordable. One week after the implant surgery, the bone starts to fuse to the titanium post, and the process continues for the rest of one’s life. Tooth implants made from titanium and titanium alloy have a success rate of 95% and can last a lifetime with proper care. Titanium implant usually consists of two parts: the implant screw, which replaces the tooth root, and an implant abutment, which connects the screw to the crown. This two-piece system allows titanium implants to be placed deep into the human bone separately.
- Zirconia – Having been recently discovered for use in implant placement, zirconia has proven to be a promising material. Zirconia dental implants are most often recommended for patients allergic to titanium. Zirconia implants are mainly one-piece implants that can be completed in one session. However, they can be harder to insert compared to titanium implants.
The right dental implant material out of the above may depend on your specific condition and requirement. A dental specialist at Precision Oral Surgery will evaluate your requirements and recommend the best course of action.
Are There Alternative Materials for Dental Implants?
Although titanium and zirconia remain two of the most common implant materials, other materials are sometimes used to create implants. Although these options are not standard, they are worth knowing if you are curious about all the options available.
Some of the alternative implant materials include:
- Polymers – This biodegradable material can be a great option for replacing teeth as their composition can be easily modified, allowing for a more aesthetic appearance. However, they are not as durable as other materials.
- Ceramics – Some ceramics, such as carbon-silicon, can also be used in dental implants. They are both durable and robust but have some brittle properties that limit their ability to be a long-lasting tooth replacement solution.
- Alternative metals – Other metals that can be used in creating dental implants are stainless steel, gold, and cobalt-chromium. These metals are durable and corrosion-resistant but have lower success rates than titanium and zirconia implants.
Although several alternative materials for dental implants exist, many of them have relatively low success rates and, thus, are not preferred by oral surgeons.
What Does the Dental Implant Process Involve?
Dental implant placement requires patients to be sedated throughout the surgical procedure. The type of implant used and the state of your jawbone determine how dental implant surgery is carried out.
There are generally three stages to an implant procedure:
- Surgical placement – We will first drill a small hole in the upper or lower jawbone and place the implant. The implant will then function like a natural tooth root for the replacement tooth.
- Integration – After its placement and primary stability, the implant will be allowed to heal and integrate with the jawbone. This process is called osseointegration and can take between three to six months. This process is why titanium implants are popular, as they easily fuse with the bone.
- Placement of the dental crown – Finally, we will attach an artificial tooth to the implant, also called a dental crown. Dental implant crowns are usually made from porcelain, composite, and metals.
The entire dental procedure can take several months, depending on how quickly the jawbone fuses to the implant. A successful implant functions the same way as natural tooth roots and keeps the artificial tooth stable.
Who Are the Ideal Candidates for Implants?
Although implants are a great option for tooth loss due to periodontal disease, tooth decay, or injury, they may not be suitable for everyone. The ideal candidate for an implant must be in good overall health, with sufficient jawbone density required to support the implant and healthy gum tissues free of periodontal disease.
This surgery is not recommended for people with gingivitis or any other form of gum disease. This is due to the fact that the illness damages the gums and the natural bone underlying them. As a result of this bone loss, there is insufficient bone for implant insertion. Before inserting implants, most dentists recommend addressing gum disease.
The surgery is also not recommended for patients who have insufficient jawbone. Bone grafts or bone regeneration, on the other hand, can be utilized to produce additional bone and make them healthy enough to go through the procedure. We are experts in oral pathology and bone augmentation procedures and can help you qualify for dental implants.
People with certain health conditions like uncontrolled diabetes, blood clotting disorders, and weakened immune systems may also not be ideal for dental implant surgery. Therefore, we will assess your general health and medical history before deeming you eligible for the treatment.
Caring for Implants
Although a dental implant is generally made from a durable material, you should still take care of it to ensure long-lasting results. This includes brushing and flossing your teeth twice a day to remove food particles from the mouth and keep your gums healthy. You should also keep up with regular dentist appointments and visit us once every six months to evaluate the condition of your gums and make sure they are healthy. Gum disease is quite common in people with implants who do not care for them as needed, leading to implant failure.
Furthermore, you should also avoid all foods and beverages that can stain your teeth. And refrain from activities that could chip or break your teeth, like eating ice cubes or biting on pens or pencils. According to top studies, proper oral hygiene and care are vital to prevent peri-implant diseases and ensure lasting implant success.
The Future of Dental Implants
With the increasing popularity of implants to replace damaged or lost teeth, dental professionals continue to research and improve dental implant materials and techniques. And as technology advances even further, dental specialists may develop new and improved treatment options to make the process more effective and comfortable.
In addition, researchers believe the increasing demand for implants will cause the global dental implant market value to reach $13 billion by 2023. With this influx of new patients, implant dentistry will also need to consider other factors affecting the implant integration, such as allergies and medical conditions. Oral surgeons hope to provide alternative implant materials and procedures to offer patients several options to suit their individual treatment needs in the future.
While the use and construction of implants have come a long way, the future is likely to be filled with alternative solutions to improve dental implants. For example, it may be possible to use stem cells in the implementation process. As such, the future is likely to hold great innovations in this field.