One of Steve Flory's molars had seen better days. His tooth was cracked, infected and beyond saving.
The molar had to be pulled, but Flory didn't want a gaping void in his mouth. He opted to get a dental implant. He couldn't be more pleased.
“It's perfect,” said the North Idaho resident. “I don't even think of it now as an implant. It's just one of my teeth. You can't tell the difference between it and my other teeth.”
That's the point.
The American Dental Association calls the development and use of implants “one of the biggest advances in dentistry in the past 40 years.”
An estimated 35 million people in America are missing all of their teeth, making dental implants a popular choice for the toothless. More than 3 million people in the United States have dental implants, and the number is increasing by 500,000 patients a year, says the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.
Dental implants are comprised of titanium and other materials. The implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth.
The dental implant process can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months to complete from start to finish and is mostly pain free, said Alexis LaRose, dentist and owner of Kootenai Family Dental in Coeur d'Alene.
“People have very minimal discomfort,” said Dr. LaRose. “Implant placement is easier on patients than an extraction, in fact, Most patients only need ibuprofen!”
Dr. LaRose said the benefits of dental implants go beyond aesthetics.
“Implants are placed into the bone so they are anchored into place and the bone grows around them,” she said. “Essentially they are like an artificial tooth root, meaning they feel the closest to natural teeth. If you lose a tooth you will lose bone in that area over time. They help to maintain the bone levels in your jaw.”
State of the art technology is now being utilized for the popular dental implant procedures, including three dimensional computer software and 3D imaging.
“We are actually able to do a 3D scan to see where an implant would fit best in your mouth,” said Dr. LaRose. “We can also use our digital crown software to plan where we want the crown to be after treatment is completed so we are able to best place the implant for ideal outcome.”
Implants are not only the best option for the replacement of missing teeth, they are incredibly versatile and can be used to replace multiple missing teeth or even anchor a full denture.
According to Dr. LaRose, an implant retained denture is drastically better than traditional dentures.
“A denture sits on top of the gums and moves around and feels nothing like natural teeth,” she said. “Traditional dentures give a person about 10% of their original chewing function when compared with natural teeth. An implant retained denture will restore 80-90% of your chewing function! In addition you don't have to have any material on the roof of your mouth. It is essentially an implant-supported bridge replacing all your teeth and it is not removable.”
Lynell Mays, a patient at Kootenai Family Dental, loves her dental implant. Mays' molar had to be pulled and she decided an implant would be better than a bridge.
“I brush it like a regular tooth,” she said. “I am just thrilled with how it turned out. Dr. LaRose did a fantastic job.”
For more information, call (208) 398-3853 or visit www.kootenaifamilydental.com
--Written by Marc Stewart, Director of Sponsored Content