Per-Ingvar Branemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, is credited as the pioneer of dental implants. Branemark studied the integration of titanium based hardware by the body, termed osseointegration, in the 1960’s. Since that time, dental implants have evolved a great deal and continue to do so at a rapid pace. Presently, dental implants are fixtures that are placed surgically into either the upper or lower jaw bone that, after a period of healing (osseointegration), may be used to support dental restorations. Originally implants were designed for treatment of single tooth replacement, using a single implant for a single crown. Today, however, additional types of restorations and uses of implants are being employed. Multiple implants may be used to support larger restorations such as a bridge. Implants may also be used to stabilize upper or lower dentures. Implants are now being used reliably for the “Teeth in a day” complete dental rehabilitations, or the newer “All-On-4” treatment concepts. Both of these concepts use dental implants to completely reconstruct an upper or lower jaw with a full set of fixed teeth, avoiding dentures and removable treatments.
So who are candidates for dental implants? In general , thanks to good long-term research, and significant advances in engineering and technology, there are very few contraindications to treatment with dental implants. Thus, nearly every person missing a single tooth, multiple teeth, or all teeth can be considered a candidate for dental implants, with very few exceptions.
The single requirement for dental implant placement is adequate bone volume to support the implant. Depending on the situation, this may require bone grafting procedures prior to, or at the same time as implant placement.
What is the procedure for implant placement and restoration? The process starts with consultations with a general dentist and oral surgeon. The consultation appointments will be used to assess the areas of possible implant placement and need for grafting, and also plan the eventual restorations to be fabricated and delivered. Surgical placement of the implant is then followed by several months of healing, which is then followed by fabrication and delivery of the final restoration—be it a single crown, a bridge, dentures, or a full set of teeth to be fixed to the implant.
With the history of high success rates (>94%) of dental implants and continued research and improvement, missing teeth no longer need be tolerated or cause patients to be self-conscious about the appearance or function of their smile. Patients should seek consultation with a general dentist or oral surgeon to discuss dental implants.