Seven basic questions about dental implants
Dental implants are, to this day, the best solution to tooth loss. In the first place, it is practically impossible to tell that it is an artificial substitute; and secondly and unlike dentures or bridges, they are “screwed” to the bone, and therefore do not move.
But the best thing of all and perhaps something the patient usually does not value is its functionality: they behave like natural teeth. The bite is the same as with our teeth thanks to the adjustment of the dentist and the prosthetic, and does not allow the loss of bone mass nor that food remains are introduced into the cavities, avoiding infections or problems in the gums.
It may be that a patient is most interested in the price, but it is important to take into account the advantages that a dental implant can provide in the long term, which also translates into a lower cost.
Víctor Cubillo, surgeon, implantologist and medical director of the Artedental clinic in Puerto de la Cruz, one of the centres with the longest experience in this specialty and whose team is responsible for the creation of a unique and patented system in Europe of implant, answers seven basic questions about dental implants.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a “screw” made of biocompa-tible materials that replaces the root of a lost tooth. To it is attached the pillar, a high precision piece that joins this artificial root with the crown or tooth. The dental implant therefore consists of three pieces: body, pillar and crown.
The body or screw is biocompatible so that there is no rejection of our body, and the most common material is titanium. The prosthesis or visible part may be a crown (for a single tooth), a bridge (formed by several crowns held by one or more implants) or a complete prosthesis (when any upper or lower denture is replaced, and it will be fastened through four, six or eight implants).
Do I need a dental implant?
A dental implant is placed when a tooth or teeth are missing, broken or there is irreversible infections in one or more dental pieces that must be extracted. The absence of the tooth and its root for a prolonged time causes the loss of bone, so that the factions will be altered. The aesthetic in this case plays a fundamen-tal role, but also the functio-nality: the absence of one or several teeth affects the mastication, which will change and may cause problems of bruxism or malocclusion, ie a bad bite, cause of migraines, insomnia, backaches and bad postures, among other conditions. The loss of teeth can also affect our pronunciation, a problem that will be solved with the implant and the prosthesis. If you have lost one or several teeth or you suffer from a condition that will lead to it, dental implants are the best option that exists today.
What is the intervention?
The first step will always be a thorough examination of the patient, with radiological and clinical tests to determine the most appropriate solution for each patient. It is very important to understand that this treatment is personalised. Implants and prostheses should be adapted to the conditions of each patient, so do not rely on the clinics that announce fixed offers and very low cost.
After the previous analysis, the placement of an implant consists of a surgical procedure in which the affected tooth (s) will be removed and the implant will be screwed to our bone. This operation usually lasts from 45 minutes for a single implant or up to three to four hours for a full mouth, and despite appearing complex, is one of the simplest and least risky surgical interventions. In general, local anesthesia (administered and controlled by a specialist) is used, so although the patient will be conscious throughout the operation, he will not feel any pain. Finally a provisional or definitive prosthesis is placed, depending on the system that the patient chooses or that the dentist recommends according to each case.
The most important thing is that the implant is integrated into our bone, which is its support, and this takes time. The cicatrization and integration period can last between three and six months. After that time, we proceed to place the final prosthesis in case we have a temporary, which has been manufactured and carved by the prostheses. It is important to have highly skilled technicians able to make the visible part as similar to our natural teeth in textures, colour and shape; and it is no simple task. Hence these technicians are considered “masters”, similar to sculptors.
What are the possible complications?
In the case of implants that are not properly cared for, the most common complications are mucositis and perii-mplantitis. Mucositis occurs due to poor hygiene, resulting in the accumulation of bacterial plaque in the gums and thus to the loss of bone or periimplantitis. This can also occur because of smoking or certain genetic conditions. However, proper dental hygiene prevents all of them.
It is painful?
As we have seen, the intervention is not painful; nor the postoperative if there have been no complications and follow the recommendations of the dentist: brush properly, avoid mastication where the intervention has been performed, use surgical brushes and not floss.
Do they last a lifetime?
With the necessary care, a dental implant is a solution for life. It is true that there may be rejection of the implant due to causes such as periiimplantitis or smoking, but the success rate of implants is greater than 95% when appropriate care is maintained, according to The Institute for Dental Implant Awareness (IDIA), an non-profit organisation that seeks to provide independent and objective information about dental implants. In addition, according to the Spanish Society of Periodontics and Osseointegration (SEPA), they normally continue to function properly after 15 years.
We must keep in mind that we must maximize dental hygiene and go to the dentist at least once a year. After all, we have an external body in our mouth that needs to be checked by a specialist.
The cost-benefit advantage is unparalleled. It is true that there are cheaper solutions, but not in the long term, because of their quality and durability. The average price in Spain of a dental implant according to the SEPA ranges from 300 to exceed 1,000 euros. But you have to be very careful. In general, if a clinic offers an implant at 300 euros, the offer refers only to the cost of the implant, not to the intervention, examinations, visits or addi-tional treatments such as bone augmentation if necessary.