You can't watch today's TV without seeing ads for dental implants! While the marketing creates needed public awareness that implants exist, they also create confusion. Frequently, our office gets calls from people we have never seen before wanting "implants" as an answer to all of their dental needs.
Implants are exactly what the name implies; a piece of metal that is implanted into the upper or lower jawbone. An implant, by itself doesn't do anything or achieve anything. The marketing makes the implant process seems easy and a cure all for everything. That is simply not the case!
This special made metal screw post integrates with bone over several months and is extremely stable. The only thing they do is replace missing tooth roots. The benefits of implants depend on what is attached to it; either a crown or a denture.
The top of an implant is made to receive a screw. As you will see, this screw attachment has several very important jobs.
The easiest implant system to understand are the ones used to replace a single tooth. Let's use a missing back molar as an example. It is important for the reader to understand most implants are divided into three parts; the body of the implant, the screw and the crown.
A well trained dental surgeon drills a pilot hole in the jaw bone where the missing molar was and places the implant which is made of specially treated metal. Yes, this sounds draconian but the area is numb and patient is usually sedated so there is minimum pain during and after the procedure.
It has to be perfectly placed for reasons I will explain. While the area heals, including the gums and bone to implant, a healing cap is screwed into the head of the implant. The purpose of the healing cap is to guide healing of the tissue to fit the future crown. Most surgeons like to wait up until three months for the implant and bone to become one. Once this occurs, it is time for the restorative dentist to take impressions for what is called an implant crown. The healing cap is unscrewed and an impression cap is then screwed into the implant. The impression cap allows the dentist to communicate with the lab so the lab can make a perfect replacement for the missing molar.
Once impression is made, impression cap is unscrewed and healing cap screwed back on. Yes, the screw is extremely important in the implant process.
The dental laboratory makes a crown that has a hole in the center. A different screw runs down the middle of the hole in the crown. When the healing cap is unscrewed, the crown is placed and screwed into the implant. After confirming that crown fits perfectly and precisely, very fancy torque wrenches allow the dentist to tighten the screw to exactly 35 Newton-Centimeters.
The single root formed implant, screw retained crown is the ultimate in replacing a tooth. It is also very expenses with prices ranging from $4,000 to $5,000. Another way to look at the value of the teeth Mother Nature gave all of us is 28 teeth times $5,000 which equals.
Next month, I will describe the different ways implants work with Dentures.