Many Roads, One Destination: Dental Implant Developments Lead To A Great Smile

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Not so long ago and right here in the United States, if you were missing several teeth the only two choices for fixing your smile had significant drawbacks. Because of that, no one would blame you for delaying action on your dental dilemma. After all, dentures can mean extensive fittings and adjustments, and dental implants can mean months of temporary crowns. However, the field of cosmetic dentistry now offers many routes to the same destination: a dazzling smile.

Mini implants

The first advance in dental implants is actually a hybrid of implants and dentures. The traditional implant procedure, which requires the dentist cut a flap of skin, drill a 3.75mm hole in the jaw, and place a titanium post, necessitates three to six months' healing before the permanent crown can be placed. The procedure for mini implants, however, is much simpler: the dentist drills four shallow holes along the length of the jawline, then places and tightens the implants with special dental wrenches. After this, dentures click onto the circular tip of the implant. Done!

Advantages of mini implants over traditional implants include

  • Time. Done in one day, patients do not have to wear temporary crowns and return for additional procedures

  • Eligibility. Many implant patients, by nature of their oral health status, have compromised bone strength and are therefore ineligible for the procedure. However, mini implants do not require a deep base of solid jawbone because of their shallow placement.

  • Affordability. Because the mini implant procedure can be completed in one day, it costs much less than traditional implants.

  • Rapid healing. No more do patients endure extended discomfort as implants integrate into the jawbone.

Mini implants are a good choice for patients who need several adjoining implants but may lack the bone strength and/or the financial resources for traditional implants.

Ceramic implants

Another development in the field of dental implants involves a new material used in the implant itself. Historically, titanium has been the material of choice for the post that is placed in the patient's jaw. Titanium has proven itself to be a quality choice, but unfortunately, if the patient's gum line is thin, the gray color of the post can show through, discoloring the smile. Therefore, ceramic implants have now become a viable alternative to titanium.

Ivory-colored ceramic, called zirconia, integrates well into the jawbone. These new implants are self contained, as opposed to titanium posts which are made of two components capable of shifting over time. Further, zirconia is resistant to corrosion and extremely durable. Many patients report less pain and more comfort with ceramic implants than patients who choose those made of metal. Lastly, some patients are sensitive to metals, but ceramic implants make allergic reactions a non-issue.

Electro-magnetic implants

The final development of note in the dental implant field is still in the testing phase, not yet available for general use. However, electromagnetic technology may just revolutionize the industry once it is approved. Noting that the time required for osseointegration (the process by which the implant adheres to the jawbone) is lengthy and often compromised by poor bone health, an Israeli company has developed a miniaturized electromagnetic device (MED) that sits atop the implant post. The device emits an electromagnetic field that not only promotes osseointegration but also makes the jawbone stronger. Already patented in the United States and Europe, human trials are the next step. If successful, look for MEDs to change the future of the implant field.

If you have stalled on a consultation with your dentist, delay no longer. Perhaps mini implants are the perfect choice for you because your jawbone isn't strong enough to support full implants. Maybe ceramic implants sound right because you are worried about a discolored smile. It may be the case that you know you will need implants in a few years and can wait for MEDs. Whatever your particular situation is, your dentist (like those at Oral Surgery Center) can route you to a great smile.