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The basic characteristics of dental implants 

Dental implants are today the best solution to the loss of teeth. It’s almost imperceptible that they are artificial substitutes and, unlike dentures or bridges, they are “bolted” to the bone and therefore do not move.

The best of all of dental implants is that they behave like natural teeth. The bite is the same as with our teeth thanks to the adjustment of the dentist and the prosthetist and do not allow the loss of bone mass. It also prevents the remains of food being introduced into the cavities, avoiding infections or problems in the gums.

It may be that what most interests a patient is the price, but it is important to take into account the advantages that a dental implant can provide in the long term, which also results in a lower cost.

Víctor Cubillo, surgeon, implantologist and medical director at the Artedental clinic in Puerto de la Cruz, one of the centres with the greatest path in this specialty, explains some basic characteristics of dental implants.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a “screw” made from biocompatible materials that replaces the root of a lost tooth. The pillar, a piece of high precision, 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 can be a crown (for a single tooth), a bridge (formed by several crowns subjected to one or several implants) or a complete prosthesis (one or more substitutes are substituted for a superior or lower denture, and it will be secured to through four, six or eight implants).

Do I need a dental implant?

A dental implant is placed when there are missing or fractured teeth or there is an irreversible infection in one or more dental parts that are to be extracted. The absence of the tooth and its root for a prolonged time causes the loss of bone, the reason why the factions will be altered. The aesthetics in this case play a fundamental role, but also the functionality: the absence of one or several teeth affects chewing, which will change and may cause problems of bruxism or malocclusion, that is, a bad bite, cause of migraines, insomnia, back pain 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 result in it, dental implants are the best option that exists today.

What is the intervention involved?

The first step will always be an exhaustive examination of the patient, with radiological and clinical tests to determine what is 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 it is not necessary to rely on clinics that announce fixed and low cost offers.

After the previous analysis, the placement of an implant consists in a surgical intervention in which the affected teeth are removed and the implant will be screwed to our bone. This operation can last between two or three hours, and although it seems complex, it is one of the simplest and lowest risk surgery. In general, local anesthesia (administered and controlled by a specialist) is used, so, although the patient will be aware during the entire operation, there will be no pain. Finally, a provisional or definitive prosthesis is placed, depending on the system that the patient chooses or which the dentist recommends according to each case.

Finally, the most important thing is that the implant is integrated into our bone, which is its support, and this requires time. The period of healing and integration can last between three and six months. After that time, the final prosthesis is placed, manufactured and carved by the prosthetics. It is important to have highly skilled technicians capable of making the visible part more similar to our natural teeth as regards textures, colour and shape; And it’s not a simple task. Hence, these technicians are considered “teachers”, similar to sculptors.

What are the possible complications?

In the case of implants that are not adequately cared for, the most common complications are mucositis and periimplantitis. Mucositis occurs due to poor hygiene, resulting in the accumulation of bacterial plaque in the gums and hence the loss of bone or periimplantitis. This can also occur due to smoking or certain genetic conditions.

However, adequate dental hygiene prevents all of them.

Is it 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 chewing where the intervention has been performed, use surgical brushes and don’t using dental floss.

Do they last a lifetime?

With the necessary care, a dental implant is a solution for a lifetime. It is true that there may be rejection of the implant due to causes such as periimplantitis 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), the non-profit organisation which offers independent and objective information about dental implants. In addition, according to the Spanish Society of Periodontics and Osteointegration (SEPA), it is normal that they continue to function properly after 15 years.

We must keep in mind that dental hygiene must be extreme and the dentist must be seen at least once a year. After all, we have an external body in our mouth that must be reviewed by a specialist.

How much does it cost?

The cost-benefit advantage is unmatched. It is true that there are cheaper solutions, but not in the long term, due to its quality and durability. The average price in Spain of a dental implant according to SEPA goes from 300 to over € 1,000. But you have to be very careful. In general, if a clinic offers an implant at € 300, the offer refers only to the cost of the implant, not to the intervention, exams, visits or additional treatments such as bone augmentation if necessary.