Replacing missing teeth is an important part of preserving your oral health and your appearance. While there are many restorative dentistry options available, dental implants are appealing because they are a permanent and comprehensive solution for replacing lost teeth. It is important to note, however, that each dental implant procedure is highly individualized. Before undergoing surgery, dental implant candidates should consider all aspects of the procedure, including the risks, benefits, and realistic results that the procedure can produce. Continue reading to learn if you may be a candidate for dental implant surgery.
What Makes a Good Dental Implant Candidate
Although the main characteristic that would cause a patient to receive dental implants is to be missing several or all of their teeth, there are many other factors to consider before undergoing dental implant surgery. In addition to being in good general health, dental implant candidates should:
- Have sufficient jaw bone structure to support an implant
- Address any gum or tissue infection prior to surgery
- Be able to follow through with the entire procedure, which takes place over several months
- Adopt good oral hygiene habits
- Understand the risks involved with oral surgery
Visit the DocShop gallery to view dental implant before and after photos.
Photo credit: Smiles on Broadway Dental Care
Only a certified dentist can identify whether a patient is truly qualified for dental implant surgery. Prior to receiving dental implants, patients should be thoroughly examined by a dental implant specialist. This will include CT scans to check on the condition and density of the jaw bone, x-rays to identify any decay in existing natural teeth, and an examination to search for lingering signs of gum disease. Patients who wish to receive dental implants must first receive treatment for tooth or gum decay. This will help ensure successful implantation.
The most crucial requirement of dental implant candidates is for them to have adequate bone structure to support the titanium posts. Dental implant surgery actually involves a process known as osseointegration, in which the post fuses to the bone, preserving its structure and giving strength to synthetic teeth. In the event that a patient who has lost their teeth does not have sufficient bone, bone grafting may be performed. This procedure rebuilds the jaw, by moving bone from one area of the body to the mouth. The bone that is being moved typically comes from the actual implant patient, either from their mouth or other areas of the body such as the hip or leg. In instances where bone cannot be taken from the patient, a dentist may use synthetic bone. The bone grafting procedure is done several months prior to implant surgery to ensure the area is healed before implantation. A successful bone grafting surgery makes dental implants available to patients who have experienced significant bone deterioration.
Who is Not a Good Implant Candidate
While dental implants are perhaps the most durable and aesthetically-pleasing option for patients who are missing teeth, they are not right for everyone. Some habits and conditions can put patients at risk both during and after the actual surgery. Individuals who may not be candidates for the procedure include:
- Smokers or heavy drinks, as both may inhibit healing time
- Minors whose jawbones have not fully developed
- Individuals with auto-immune deficiencies or diseases such as diabetes
- Patients with irreparable bone loss
Understanding Implant Certifications
Before moving forward with any dental implant procedure, it is important to make sure that your chosen provider is certified in implant dentistry. Individuals who have received certification from a professional dental group have demonstrated knowledge and capability in the area of dental implants. The following organizations train and certify dentists in the use of dental implants. Within each professional group, there are varying degrees of certification depending on the number of training hours, exams passed, and other factors.
- American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID)
- American Board of Oral Implantology/Implant Dentistry (ABOI/ID)
- American Board of Prosthodontics (ABP)
- International Congress of Oral Implantologists (ICOI)
- Misch International Implant Institute (MIII)
- American College of Prosthodontists (ACP)
- American Academy of Implant Prosthodontics (AAIP)
What to Look for in an Implant Dentist
In addition to making sure that your dentist is certified in implantology, there are several other steps that you can take to ensure a successful dental implant procedure and recovery. This includes:
- Choosing a dentist who has a experience with dental implants. Many dental practices actually focus on implants, and may be able to provide the best results
- Viewing photos and testimonials. Any dentist who has had success with implants in the past should be willing to provide before and after pictures of previous patients, as well as testimonials (if available).
- Doing your research. The education and training of an implant dentist can be viewed on the practice’s website or be requested directly from the office. If possible, find a dentist that has completed a three-year post-graduate program in prosthodontics.
- Understanding your own needs. The dental implant procedure is highly individualized and may require various steps such as bone grafting. It is important to understand your specific treatment regimen, and analyze whether your dentist can provide for those specific needs.
- Making sure you’re comfortable. Receiving dental implants requires several months of dental appointments and procedures. It is important that you feel at ease with your chosen dentist and their staff in order to ensure your comfort throughout the entire process.
As with many medical fields there are several titles that dentists can receive after a certain amount of training and education. While it is not necessary to understand every detail that these varying titles entail, it is helpful to understand some of the basics.
Prosthodontics, more commonly referred to as prosthetic dentistry, is the field of dentistry that focuses on the use of restorations to repair the teeth and related structures of the mouth and jaw. It is ideal to choose a dentist who actively practices prosthodontics because they will have a keen understanding of the aesthetic and functional uses of dental implants. Professionals who complete a three-year post-doctoral training program have specialized training in this area. The American Board of Prosthodontics offers certification to implant dentists who pass a four-part examination. This certification must be renewed every eight years to ensure current standards of practice.
Oral surgery is one of the nine specific areas of dentistry that is recognized by the American Dental Association. Oral surgeons are skilled in the surgical procedure that involves the actual implantation of titanium posts. Your dentist may refer you to an oral surgeon if he or she only offers restorations and does not perform the placement of implants. In addition, if you have severely damaged or decayed teeth you may be advised to visit an oral surgeon to determine your eligibility for receiving dental implants.
Find a Dentist
The dental implant procedure is one of the most comprehensive and delicate restorative dentistry treatments currently available. In order to ensure the success of the procedure, it is important to choose an experience implant dentist for your implant treatment. A qualified dentist does not only take the necessary safety precautions, but also pays close attention to your comfort, and the aesthetics of your new smile. Find a local dentist to find out if you are a good candidate for treatment.