Dental implants are a miracle to some patients who have lost some or all their teeth. Dental implants come in various sizes and are made by many different companies.
Most dental implants have drills and instrumentation peculiar to “their” system. All commonly used dental implants are made of titanium with a coating that stimulates bone formation to solidify the implant in the bone.
Dental bone is different than most other bone of the body. The bone holds the teeth in place and this keeps the bone stimulated. Once a tooth is removed, the bone holding the tooth, or teeth, slowly dissolves away.
This dissolving process is accelerated by pressure such as that provided by a denture. Either way, once teeth are removed there is a timeline to get an implant replacement based on the availability of the bone in the missing tooth area.
Due to the vast array of choices in dental implants available, the process of size selection is simplified given differing conditions in bone between individuals as well as in the location in the mouth.
Even in as little as one to two years the bone can change enough to make implant placement impossible without additional bone grafts.
Once a dental implant is placed in a space formally occupied by a tooth, it provides the stimulation to the bone to drastically slow or stop the bone dissolution. Some areas in the mouth are more prone to needing timely implant placement following extraction to avoid these bone grafts and make the possibility of implants much greater.
The most sensitive area to change quickly is the upper posterior molar areas. The boney floor of the sinus drops down while the surface bone opposing it dissolves up at the same time. It does not take long to make this area questionable for dental implants without bone grafts.
Debatably, the second area that is most urgent to get implants positioned quickly is the upper and lower anterior area. Here, the bone around the teeth is usually thinner anyway and can be lost pretty quickly in both a vertical and horizontal direction. As cosmetics are usually of importance, the urgency is even greater.
The most forgiving area in the oral cavity for dental implants are the middle bicuspid areas of both upper and lower jaws. In most cases, some delay is not as critical.
No matter what location in the mouth an implant is desired, once placed it will help to preserve the bone similarly to a natural tooth. So, if you have, or plan to have, missing teeth and want implants, sooner is much better than later.
James G. Jenkins, D.M.D. is the owner of Bluffton Dental Care in Bluffton.