Dental Implants: What You Need to Know
I've talked a lot about possibly needing or wanting to remove teeth. If you do choose to have your tooth removed, how do you replace it? There are four basic options when a tooth has been removed:
1. Do nothing.
Leave the space there and don’t replace the tooth.
- Pros—This is the least traumatic and least expensive option.
- Cons—Teeth work in relation to one another.
- If you remove a top or bottom tooth, the tooth above or below it will move up or down, trying to find something to chew against. This throws the alignment of the bite off. Ask your dentist if the tooth you are having removed will be one that will affect the other teeth if it isn’t replaced.
- The bone stays where it is holding a tooth. When your tooth is removed, the jaw bone that was holding your tooth in place will slowly resorb away.This is particularly true if you have a top back tooth removed. This will make it more difficult to have an implant placed later, and may affect the teeth next to the space as the bone pulls away from those teeth as well.
2. Replace it with something removable.
This is called a partial denture or “flipper” if it’s replacing a few teeth, or a denture if replacing all of the teeth.
- Pros—This can be removed for cleaning, and can be easily repaired if it breaks. It is the least expensive way to replace the tooth.
- Cons—It does not look or chew like your natural tooth.
- Dentures have about a 50% loss in chewing ability from natural teeth. It is difficult to chew things like salad and carrots with dentures.
- Many people also don’t want to worry about a denture breaking or getting lost at a bad time.
- This does not give the bone a tooth to hold, so you will lose jawbone over time. There is an average five-year life span for a denture, because as the jawbone resorbs away the denture gets loose and has to be remade to fit the new shape of the bone.
3. Replace it with something glued in place.
This is called a bridge and there are many variations.
- Pros—It does not come in and out. It looks and works similar to your natural teeth and can be completed in a few weeks.
- Cons—It does negatively affect the teeth holding the bridge.
- A bridge puts a lot of pressure on the teeth on both sides of the space that are holding the bridge. This can and often does lead to the supporting teeth being lost as well. In fact, more than 50% of teeth that are holding a bridge are lost within ten years of the bridge being placed.
Now you are missing the original tooth and one or both of the teeth next to the missing tooth. You’ve now turned the one tooth problem into a three-tooth problem.
- It is more expensive and does not help the bone stay there. It has a ten-year average life span.
4. Replace it with a root-replacing dental implant.
- Pros—This is the replacement that looks and works most like your natural tooth. It does not involve or damage any other teeth. It gives the bone a tooth to hold, so the bone does not go away and has a 20+ year life span.
- Cons—It takes 6-12 months to complete and is the most expensive option.
- There are debates about the long term health implications of dental implants, but most of these debates are in regards to titanium implants (see more information below).
- Zirconium implants have been in use for 20 years in Europe, but longer-term data is not available.
Is a Dental Implant Safe?
I have a dental implant, I replaced my husband’s tooth with a dental implant, and that is what I am planning to use to replace my son’s missing front teeth when he is done growing and old enough for implants.
There are 30+ year studies showing long term success and safety with dental implants.
This success is defined by whether the implant is retained in the mouth and functioning, and there are scores of research articles showing that implants do have a long term retention rate. However, there have not been a lot of definitive studies regarding the health implications of dental implants.
There are some things that cloud this picture even more:
- Most research has been done testing titanium implants. The first implants were made of titanium, and that has been the standard in dentistry for many years.
- Recent changes in our environment such as 4G wireless frequencies are impacting the success of the implants. These frequencies cause metals to heat up. Think of a microwave oven. You can’t put metals into a microwave because they get too hot when the microwaves hit the metal. The waves in the air from all our wireless devices also hit metals and heat them up by 4-5 degrees Fahrenheit. This small increase heats up the titanium implant and bone surrounding the implant and may lead to bone loss and implant failure.
- There are many surprising sources of metals in our world today. Metals are hiding in food, personal care supplies like deodorant and shampoo, sunscreens, cooking ware, furniture, carpets and more. These metals lead to metal overload in our systems, so the body becomes sensitive to all metals.
After much research and study and training, I am now exclusively placing zirconia implants. These are manufactured from a metal-free material called zirconium oxide. It was identified in 1789 by German Chemist Martin Heinrich Klaproth. Zirconium oxide is ivory in color making it similar to the color of the natural tooth. Zirconium can also transmit light, making it very esthetic.
Zirconium oxide implants have outstanding mechanical properties, good stability, high biocompatibility and high resistance to scratching and corrosion. Some reasons to choose zirconia implants:
- Excellent esthetics
- Natural white color
- Biocompatible– Research shows no adverse immunologic, tissue or bone reactions to zirconia implants.
- Preservation of bone– same success rates as titanium implants.
- Better gum health– reduced plaque on implant and tissues, leads to better soft tissue healing and implant success at bone level.
- Neutral energy– doesn’t interfere with the meridians
- First choice in patients with titanium allergy
Keep reading to find out more about the titanium vs. zirconia debate,6 but the health and esthetic implications are the reasons I switched over completely.
- The meridian or shared energy pathways are not blocked by zirconia implants the way they are with titanium.
- I don’t have to be concerned about them heating up when people are using a cell phone.
- I don’t have to cover and mask the gray color of the titanium when I’m restoring them because zirconia implants are white.
- I don’t have to worry about adding to metal overload in a patient’s body, which can happen when you add metal to an already toxic body. Environmental metals are found in foods and other products we use every day.
- I don’t have to wonder what that metal is doing to the surrounding bone and tissues and the immune system. There are brand new studies that show the immune system never really shuts down around the titanium implants.
While research continues to grow, I am confident in the success of zirconia implants through stories from my patients and thousands of other patients with better health and strong, beautiful zirconia implants. I believe Zirconia dental implants to be the best replacement for teeth today.