Dental implants have been around for many years. The first were developed 40 years ago in Europe and the USA. Initially implants were used to anchor dentures in patients that could not cope with existing ones. Today techniques and implant designs have improved to such an extend that dental implants have become the treatment of choice to replace missing teeth in modern dental practice.
Dental implants can be considered today's best and most natural way to replace missing teeth.
How does it work?
When a tooth is lost, the dental system is compromised. Usually bone shrinks away, adjacent teeth start to drift into the space and long term changes to the face are initiated. To prevent these problems one needs to replace lost teeth with artificial restorations in some way.
Traditionally this was done with dentures or partial dentures that could be removed. If functional teeth were present next to the gap, crowns could be prepared on these teeth. These would then carry a fixed bridge that replaced the lost tooth. This was a fast and effective way to provide a fixed tooth replacement. The disadvantage was that healthy tooth structure had to be removed to accommodate the crowns. Today tooth structured is regarded as sacred and modern techniques techniques attempt to remove a little of the healthy tooth as possible.
Dental implants are copies of natural roots. They resemble "fancy wall plugs". Implants are made of titanium, a very strong and resistant metal that has excellent acceptance by our body. Dental implants come in many shapes and sizes. Most big implant companies have excellent products which allow for long lasting results.
When a tooth has to be removed, we decide how we will restore the situation. Often when the area is visible a provisional plate or tooth is fabricated that can be used as a temporary restoration during the healing time of about 8 weeks. In the back of the mouth this is not really essential.
After the gum has healed, the patient is booked for placing the implant. On the day the area is anesthetized and the gum is carefully opened up. The bone is inspected and a small site is prepared to accommodate the implant body. The top of the implant is closed with a "healing abutment" to allow the gum to heal around it. Sutures are placed and the patient can return home after the procedure.
When the implant has healed and is joined to the bone (integrated) we will test it and confirm integration by taking an X-ray. Then impressions are taken to have the restorations fabricated in a dental laboratory.
How long does it Take?
Dental implants need a specific time to heal and to integrate into the bone. If a tooth has been removed the area needs about 8 weeks to heal before implants can be placed predictably. This is especially the case if infections or old root canal treatments were present.
After placement, implants need 8 to 12 weeks to integrate. In our practice we normally leave them for 3 months to heal. This makes sure the bone has matured enough to carry the new restoration.
To finish the final restoration takes another 4 weeks.
From extracting a tooth to a new tooth will take from 4 months to 6 months. If bone needs to be built up to accommodate a dental implant, this time may become longer to allow the bone to heal before the implant is placed.
Is it painful?
Placing dental implants is not really painful. During the procedure the patient is anesthetized and should only feel the manipulation and preparation of the bony site. Afterwards medication is given to limit pain and swelling to an acceptable level.
The best measure is the fact that our patients receive 10 painkillers after implant surgery. Normally 1 or 2 tablets are required to make the patient comfortable after the surgery.
Patients that are extremely scared or feel they are not prepared to undergo the procedure in the dental chair, may request implant placement to be done under general anaesthetic in a hospital setting.
How long do implants last?
Implants eliminate the majority of risks that can effect a natural tooth. Implants cannot get caries or decay and cannot develop any complications of the dental nerve. This eliminates over 60% of all risk factors.
Dental implants have an excellent long term record. Internationally, studies show that implant supported restorations can be expected to have over 90% of implants in function after 10 years of being placed. This is higher than for some natural teeth.
What does it cost?
The cost of implant procedures depends on various factors. If the gum is healthy and the patient has sufficient bone to place and accommodate the implant the procedure becomes a lot easier.
A basic implant with a single crown comes to about N$ 11 500.- in our practice. The price includes N$ 7500.- for implants, components, surgery and all the items to place the implant. This is the part that goes into the gum. The restoration that goes onto the implant costs about N$ 4000.-
Various options are available and we will be glad to discuss what suits our patients best.
How about the bone?
If a person is reasonable healthy and is prepared to have normal dentistry done in a dental chair, he is normally in a position to have dental implants. Often however some of the jawbone has been lost. This could be due to longstanding infections or gum disease as well as loss during removal of the teeth. In addition the jawbone shrinks away after a tooth is extracted.
Placing an implant is like putting a screw into a piece of wood. If there is not enough wood, stability and strength will be compromised and the procedure may fail.
Today bone can be rebuilt in many cases. This may need a special procedure before or during placement of the implant. In a case like this we will prepare the area and use the patient's and artificial bone to create enough new bone to accommodate the future implant. After bone buildup (augmentation) healing times of 4-6 months may be required.