Teeth are essential to the quality of our lives. They chew, help us articulate words, and give us a bright, beautiful smile. Lose your teeth—either to disease or injury— and your life undoubtedly suffers.
In the past, people turned to bridges and dentures to fix missing teeth. Then came dental implants—a more permanent, better fitting, and natural-looking replacement. Today, dental implant technology has become so advanced, that replacement teeth can be just as comfortable and functional as the real thing.
Thanks to computer guided implant surgery, the procedure has become more precise and less invasive than ever. The technology allows dentists to place an implant exactly where it will look and work best.
Of course, like everything else, you can always find inferior implants at a cheaper price. The trade-off typically means lower quality materials, a clumsier procedure, and more post-operative complications.
Training for implant surgery varies dramatically as well. An implant surgeon typically completes a three to four year post-graduate program and has years of training prior to practicing in the private sector. However, a dentist with only a weekend’s worth of training can also perform implant surgery.
So how can you know that you’re getting a high quality product from a seasoned professional? Consider the following factors.
Scan and Plan
Any good job starts with a good blueprint. The better and more detailed the image your dentist has to work with, the more successful his or her implant placement will be. Cone beam CT scans create very detailed 3-D radiographic images of your jawbones and teeth. Digital intra-oral scans create detailed virtual models of your teeth and gums– replacing the messy and often uncomfortable procedure of dental impressions. These images provide the precision and clarity needed for good restoration.
The gold standard for implant dentistry involves fusing the two types of scans with sophisticated software to create a comprehensive 3-D virtual model of the entire mouth. Good imaging makes for a good game plan, as the strength of an implant depends largely on the health of the tissue that will hold it.
Dental implants are embedded right into your alveolar bone, the jawbone that holds your natural teeth. That’s why Dr. Matthew Neary, a periodontist at Madison Avenue Periodontics in New York City, says preservation of the tooth socket during tooth extraction is essential for implant success.
“It is very important to determine where implants will be viable pre-operatively, to avoid complications that make ideal implant placement difficult,” Dr. Neary said.
With clear imagery and a solid plan, your dentist can steer clear of possible obstacles before you begin any treatment.
Print and Place
A dental implant is something you want to last a lifetime. But a poor fit and subpar materials means it may break down much sooner. Two common reasons for implant failure are poor positioning in the bone and the use of cement to hold the restoration in place.
How can you ensure a great fit and a longer lasting implant? With precision placement. Data gathered from digital imaging can generate a surgical stent on a 3-D printer. This stent fits precisely over your teeth, and guides the surgeon’s drills with much greater accuracy. This insures that implants are placed at the right angle in the best quality bone without the need for large incisions to reveal the bone. The result is less post-operative discomfort and swelling, lower risk of infection, and in many cases no sutures are required.
Because the stent allows for ideal placement, a screw can be used to keep your restoration in place, rather than cement.
Periodontist Dr. John Lanzetta explains that although cement has been the primary choice for implant restorations for the past 20 years, recent research reveals that excess cement under the gum line routinely leads to implant infection, bone loss and implant failure.
When it gets under the gum line, cement can microscopically penetrate the bone and destroy the implant-bone interface.
“Cement-related complications typically take two or three years to manifest, so early on all seems well when in fact, just the reverse is true,” Dr. Lanzetta said.
Care and Cleaning
According to periodontist Dr. Chris Chondrogiannis, another critical factor in the long-term success of dental implants is good hygiene.
“It is a common and false belief that implants don’t require preventive care. This could not be farther from reality,” Dr. Chondrogiannis said.
While the implants themselves will not decay, the bone and gums around them are susceptible. Without a precise fit, it can be difficult to effectively clean the gums around the implant.
Correct anatomical implant placement with computer guidance allows for as close to a normal re-creation of your natural teeth as possible. The result is a healthy and maintainable restoration that can last a lifetime.
The periodontists at Madison Avenue Periodontics in New York City represent the pinnacle of the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of gum disease and dental implants. We invite you to experience our approach to comprehensive diagnosis in the kind of full-service dental office where artistry, skill, and comfort are setting a new standard in periodontal care.
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