Dental implants are artificial roots made of titanium embedded into the bone and are the most reliable treatment for tooth loss. Titanium is a biocompatible metal accepted by the body and when in contact with this material the bone heals and fuses. This process is called the osseointegration phenomenon which takes place between 2 to 6 months. Once this process has taken place the implant is now functional and can be used to support a bridge, a crown or a removable prosthesis.
As for a natural tooth, it is difficult to predict how long implants will last. It depends on several factors. Several studies have shown that implants are more reliable than bridges or removable prosthesis in the long term.
Here are some of the factors which may influence the success of dental implants:
- Quality and balance of the prosthesis screwed onto the implant
- Repartition of the forces
- Bone quality
- Dental hygiene of the patient
- Frequency of the follow up visits
An interesting study on the long term success rate of implants was effectuated by Lekholm and his collaborators in 2006. It showed that after 20 years, 91% of dental implants were successful, which clearly indicates that there are 9 chances out of 10 that the patient will still have their implants 20 years later. In most cases, implants are the most reliable treatment.
What are the risks?
- Most complications arise in the first months, whilst the bone is healing and the osseointegration takes place. Usually the problem is a lack of osseointegration due to fibrotic tissues.
- Implant is mobile and painful.
- The implant needs to be removed under local anaesthesia.
- A new implant can usually be placed a few weeks or months after healing.
What you must remember is that:
- Dental implants are a reliable, tested technique.
- There are few cases where implants are not indicated.
- Implants help prevent recession of the bone in the area of a missing tooth
- Crowns are permanently fixed to the implant
- Surrounding teeth are not damaged.
- The treatment is aesthetical, durable and functional.
- When the anaesthesia wears off, some pain might be felt. Taking pain killers regularly will help prevent pain. It is important to follow the after treatment advice.