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Advances in Dental Implants

Although modern dental implants have only been around for a few decades, the idea of implants dates back to ancient times. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, the earliest evidence of implant dentistry dates back to about 600 AD. The remains of a Mayan woman reveal pieces of shell hammered into her jaw.

The ancient Mayans were onto something. Dental implants are the only type of tooth restoration or replacement that helps you keep your jawbone and that encourages bone growth. Since ancient times, there have been many advances in dental implants, making them one of the most reliable, comfortable, and permanent solutions to missing teeth.

Take a look at how dental implants have evolved and changed in recent years, then talk to a dental professional to see if they’re the right option for you.

New Materials

Fortunately, dentists no longer cram pieces of shell into their patient’s jawbones when they’re placing implants. The material most commonly used as an implant post is titanium. Titanium posts are able to bond with the material in the jawbone, forming a permanent substitute for the missing tooth root.

Starting in the late 1980s, a new material became available for implant posts. Zirconium dioxide, aka zirconia, is able to integrate with the jawbone tissue as well as titanium and is less likely to develop plaque, according to a study in Periondotology 2000. It can also be an ideal option for people with allergies to titanium or titanium alloys.

Although titanium remains the “gold standard” implant material, zirconia can be an appropriate alternative for the right patient.

Improved Imaging

Another advancement in dental implants has to do with the imaging used to capture the inside of the mouth. Today’s imaging options and tools, such as CBCT cone beam computed tomography, intraoral cameras and digital X-rays, provide better images than older methods, which can help to improve the placement and positioning of the implants. Tools like the intraoral camera also allow you to see what’s going on inside your mouth, letting you to become an active participant in your treatment.

The Rise of 3D Printing

A 3D printer can turn a digital file into a tangible physical object in very little time. The printers typically use less material than other manufacturing methods and tend to produce more exact objects than other methods.

3D printing has come to dental implants and some practices are using in-office printers to produce dental crowns more quickly and accurately than an outside lab. The use of 3D printing to produce the implant post itself, often a replica of a person’s natural tooth, is still in the early stages. A study published in Maxillofacial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery suggests that 3D printing of the entire implant is possible and shows promise, but that further research and study is still needed.

Faster Insertion

Typically, after a dental professional places an implant post in the jawbone, patients need to wait a few months before the final crown is positioned on top. This waiting period gives the post time to integrate into the jawbone.

Implant Size

At one point in time, the assumption was that the bigger the implant, the better. Short implants or implants with a narrow diameter were thought to have considerably higher rates of failure. But short implants can often be a more appropriate choice for certain areas of the jaw.

One review of studies, published in the Journal of Dentistry, found that there wasn’t much of a difference in survival rates of short and traditional-sized implants, with the exception of implants that are less than 8 mm in length. Implants that are less than 8 mm long have the highest risk of failure, but the use of shorter implants can make the process of placing an implant in certain parts of the jaw less complicated.

Dental implants have come a long way and are one of the most preferred tooth replacement options today. Klement Family Dental in St. Petersburg, FL, offer patients dental implants as well as tooth replacement options such as implant retained dentures and bridges. To learn more about your options for replacing a missing tooth, contact our office today to schedule an appointment.