A dental implant is a surgical component that interfaces with the bone of the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, denture, facial prosthesis or to act as an orthodontic anchor. Restoration is a term used in dentistry to describe restoring the function of the tooth by replacing missing or damaged tooth structure.
The primary use of dental implants are to support dental prosthetics. Modern dental implants make use of osseointegration, the biologic process where bone fuses tightly to the surface of specific materials such as titanium and some ceramics. The integration of implant and bone can support physical loads for decades without failure. The implant fixture is first placed, so that it is likely to osseointegrate, then a dental prosthetic is added. A variable amount of healing time is required for osseointegration before either the dental prosthetic (a tooth, bridge or denture) is attached to the implant or an abutment is placed which will hold a dental prosthetic.
For an implant to become permanently stable, the body must grow bone to the surface of the implant (osseointegration). Based on this biologic process, it was thought that loading an implant during the osseointegration period would result in movement that would prevent osseointegration, and thus increase implant failure rates. As a result, three to six months of integrating time (depending on various factors) was allowed before placing the teeth on implants (restoring them).
However, later research suggests that the initial stability of the implant in bone is a more important determinant of success of implant integration, rather than a certain period of healing time. As a result, the time allowed to heal is typically based on the density of bone the implant is placed in and the number of implants splinted together, rather than a uniform amount of time. When implants can withstand high torque (35 Ncm) and are splinted to other implants, there are no meaningful differences in long-term implant survival or bone loss between implants loaded immediately, at three months, or at six months. The corollary is that single implants, even in solid bone, require a period of no-load to minimize the risk of initial failure.
After placement, implants need to be cleaned (similar to natural teeth) with a Teflon instrument to remove any plaque. Because of the more precarious blood supply to the gingiva, care should be taken with dental floss. Implants will lose bone at a rate similar to natural teeth in the mouth (e.g. if someone suffers from periodontal disease, an implant can be affected by a similar disorder) but will otherwise last. The porcelain on crowns should be expected to discolour, fracture or require repair approximately every ten years, although there is significant variation in the service life of dental crowns based on the position in the mouth, the forces being applied from opposing teeth and the restoration material. Where implants are used to retain a complete denture, depending on the type of attachment, connections need to be changed or refreshed every one to two years. A powered irrigator may also be useful for cleaning around implants.
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