How Do Dental Implants Work?

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Dental implants have been used for tooth replacement in humans for more than 30 years. Because of it’s high strength to weight ratio and a modulus of elasticity similar to human bone it is an “ideal” metal for use in humans. For tooth replacement it is stronger than the natural root that it replaces and it cannot decay or corrode in the mouth.

After the titanium implant is surgically placed in the jaw bone it begins a process called, “osseointegration”. The surgical placement of the implant in direct contact with the jaw bone starts a healing process by which the bone cells attach directly to the titanium without any soft tissue at the interface. This fact is why a dental implant is more solid than a tooth. The tooth has a ligament attachment to the bone (periodontal ligament) which allows the tooth to move ever so slightly when compared to the implant.

Once a dental implant becomes osseointegrated it is ready for a tooth or teeth to be placed on it. Since about 2005 we can often place teeth on the implants immediately after the implant is placed in the bone. The implant surface treatment has become so good that the bone grows around the implant very quickly. This has opened up faster and more patient friendly uses for dental implants. Many times, patients no longer need to wear a denture or a flipper after treatment. When immediate teeth are not indicated the healing time of a dental implant is rarely longer than 8 weeks. During the healing period patients wear a removable temporary prosthesis. No one ever leaves the office without teeth! Below are the Wikipedia definitions of Titanium and Osseointegration:

Titanium Medical Use:

Because it is biocompatible (it is non-toxic and is not rejected by the body), titanium is used in a gamut of medical applications including surgical implements and implants, such as hip balls and sockets (joint replacement) that can stay in place for up to 20 years.[29] The titanium is often alloyed with about 4% aluminium[75] or 6% Al and 4% vanadium.

Titanium has the inherent ability to osseointegrate, enabling use in dental implants that can remain in place for over 30 years. This property is also useful for orthopedic implant applications.[29] These benefit from titanium’s lower modulus of elasticity (Young’s modulus) to more closely match that of the bone that such devices are intended to repair. As a result, skeletal loads are more evenly shared between bone and implant, leading to a lower incidence of bone degradation due to stress shielding and periprosthetic bone fractures, which occur at the boundaries of orthopedic implants. However, titanium alloys’ stiffness is still more than twice that of bone, so adjacent bone bears a greatly reduced load and may deteriorate.[76]

Osseointegration:

Osseointegration is also defined as: “the formation of a direct interface between an implant and bone, without intervening soft tissue”.[1] Osseointegrated implant is a type of implant defined as “an endosteal implant containing pores into which osteoblasts and supporting connective tissue can migrate”.[2] Applied to oral implantology, this thus refers to bone grown right up to the implant surface without interposed soft tissue layer. No scar tissuecartilage or ligament fibers are present between the bone and implant surface. The direct contact of bone and implant surface can be verified microscopically.

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