Tooth decay was a painful problem our ancestors dealt with, sometimes very creatively. Check out this 2000-year old Egyptian dental work:
The idea of repairing broken teeth with fillers goes back a long time. The ancient Sumerians, Greeks, Romans, and Etruscans all documented their interest and concern over dental solutions. Archeologists have found bits of seashell and carved stones embedded in the jaws of Mayans who lived around 600 B.C.
Dental implants didn’t really gain popularity until titanium was discovered in the 1950s. This precious metal forms a direct physical bond with living bone tissue (called osseointegration). Titanium is also very strong and compatible with biological organisms – like humans. It didn’t take long for researchers to make the first titanium root-form dental implants, shaped like the root of a tooth.
Most dental implants sold today are root-form and “designed for surgical insertion into the jawbone in order to support a tooth or, together with other implants, multiple teeth.”
Southern Implants makes devices with a common threaded base but offers optional connector tops, in a variety of shapes, to secure either a snap-in or screw-down crown or tooth. Their MAX dental implant system imitates the natural shape of the molar socket and features “a body with a larger-than-conventional diameter to fill the molar site, ultimately achieving primary stability from engagement with the inter-radicular bone.”
Another implant system from Neoss provides short, wide, and narrow implants with a specialized insertion tool. A recent clinical study “followed 86 consecutively placed implants in 75 patients for up to 7 years. Results showed an excellent cumulative survival rate (CSR) of 97.7% after 5 years. Results also demonstrated that high primary stabilities were achieved at insertion and maintained during the healing period. The study concluded that treatment with short implants can be a predictable treatment option with high survival rate in sites with limited available bone.”
It takes about six weeks to heal from a dental implant surgery. During that period, the newly placed implant must be kept safe from any force that moves it, weakening the bone bond. If biological fusion doesn’t happen, instead of a strong, fixed base for an artificial crown or restoration to sit atop, the implant becomes weak and form an infection-prone soft-tissue bond.
People with a “wait problem” want to reduce the time between the dental implant and successful osseointegration. Strides are being made in this direction.
Same-day dental implant treatment is now available, thanks to specialized screw threads on modern devices. Also, improved site preparation techniques create such a snug fit into the jawbone by the dental implant that the upper tooth can be fitted by the end of office hours. This “immediate loading” is favored by patients who need high-profile tooth repair, like those at the front of the mouth.
Immediate loading is better suited to front teeth which receive less chewing force than the back molars. Until biological bonding is complete, the implant recipient must wear a removable temporary tooth – or go toothless.
Dental implants can stand alone to replace a single lost or diseased tooth. But they can also be used in combination: two or more joined implants can support a dental bridge that spans several teeth. Single implants can flank a lot of missing teeth to support a partial denture that is fixed in place by means of a specialized snap.
There is also good news for folks who have lost all their teeth. The Nobel Biocare “All-on-4” is “a minimally invasive solution with a fixed full-arch restoration for high patient satisfaction.” This novel system supports an entire row of teeth on only four strategically-placed dental implants. This same-day treatment combines all current implant innovations with 3-D imaging, virtual (computer simulation) treatment planning software, and latest laboratory devices.
Best of all, periodontal patients with extreme bone loss who aren’t good candidates for other types of implants can receive this promising solution. The All-on-4 offers:
- Full-arch rehabilitation with only four implants
- Immediate function
- Graftless procedure
Dental implants are expensive. If you need them, shop for an indemnity dental plan that lets you visit any dentist for services. Expect to pay a higher premium for these plans. Do the math to decide if this type of dental coverage will save you some expense.
Although dental implants are usually classified as an elective or cosmetic procedure by health insurers, take heart. “Medical insurance will pay for a procedure if it’s a necessary treatment for a diagnosed medical condition,” according to Dentistry IQ. A procedure is medical when “it is used to diagnose or treat a medical condition.”
Overbite is a non-medical dental condition, an abscessed tooth is both a medical and a dental condition, and diabetes is a non-dental medical condition. If you have a medical diagnosis that justifies dental implants, your health insurance should cover it.
We can expect even more breakthroughs in future dental implant technologies. That gives us all something to smile about.