Developed in 1955, human trials for dental implants began 10 years later in 1965 and commercial availability eventually came about in 1985. The procedure is now performed at Asiri Central Hospital. To understand its pros and cons and application better, we spoke to Dr. Thuthikaran, a specially trained Dental Surgeon in Dental Implantology at Colombo’s leading healthcare provider.
What are Dental Implants
A dental implant is a titanium screw lodged permanently into the jaw bone. A ceramic tooth is later connected to this implant. In other words, dental implants pave the way to ensuring artificial teeth are now directly connected to the body. They serve as a much more stable replacement for removable dentures. Dental implants can be done for either individual teeth, small groups of teeth or even for an entire arch at once. As the number of teeth being replaced increases, there may be less dental implants needed to hold the artificial teeth in place. For example, a 14 tooth arch can be done with just 8-10 dental implants.
Who is Eligible
Anybody above the age of 18 years, having completed their pubertal growth spurt, is eligible to get dental implants. Dr. Thuthikaran says his oldest dental implant patient to date was 86 years old when she got them done and is now 88 and still enjoying them. So there’s clearly no upper age limit.
Regular diabetic patients are able to get dental implants but those with uncontrolled diabetes who aren’t careful about their lifestyle are generally not eligible for dental implants. Dentists would have to take extra precautions with patients who have osteoporosis seek implants as well. Dr. Thuthikaran says he does not recommend implants for anyone with bone cancer or any major bone disease.
Every time you visit the dentist, it will be vital that he is informed of the presence of implants, according to Dr. Thuthikaran. There is no special requirement for any extra day to day care or medication. Patients can live their lives normally, with no sensitivities. All that is recommended by Dr. Thuthikaran is the practice of going for a dental cleaning and a checkup twice a year. The implants are also completely MRI-safe and will not cause patients any issues at airports.
Pain, Side Effects & After Effects
Dr. Thuthikaran guarantees that dental implant procedures conducted at Asiri Central have absolutely no side effects. The screws implanted are made of titanium, which means they’re highly biocompatible. Titanium is generally used for knee joints, heart stents and valves but being a dental implant, the screws used at Asiri Central are very much more precise and of a higher quality. Dr. Thuthikaran says he uses Type 5 Titanium as it is the strongest option available in the market. He went on to explain the importance of the quality of the titanium used for dental implants. “lf you fix a knee joint and tell the patient not to jump he will listen. However, once you
put in dental implants, if you tell the patient not to bite anything hard, it’s not likely to happen. He is bound to chew on something hard eventually and is at a greater risk of causing himself damage. In the case of heart valves and stents, they are deep inside the body in a very sterile area with no external contact. Dental implants however, are constantly in contact with a contaminated environment. This is why the material must be able to withstand germs as well.” He went on to explain that titanium fixtures with regard to the knees or heart are solely about functionality and health, whereas dental implants need to have an aesthetic appeal as well. Considering all this, the titanium
used for dental implants is of very high quality.
The after effects are that of any dental surgery. This means there will be a bit of swelling and some pain right after the procedure. However, healthy patients with healthy jaw bones have almost never complained about any particular after effects. Despite a painkiller being administered for the surgery,
The problem arises when a tooth is extracted and nothing is done for a while with that space. The jaw bone then begins to shrink and a bone augmentation procedure will then become necessary. This can be time consuming, costly and also a little painful.
What is the process?
Dr. Thuthikaran first has a consultation with his patients at Asiri Central, where he examines the patient’s mouth in great detail, along with X-rays. Once the green light is given, a convenient date is scheduled for the surgery. On the day of the procedure, the patient can have his normal meals during the day and come for the surgery as an outdoor patient. There usually is no need for the patient to be admitted at the hospital. If the bone quality is good, the implantation takes less than half an hour to complete. The patient can then go home and even have their next meal as usual.
The implant is now done, but there still won’t be a tooth. In fact, there will only be a suture over the area where the implant was placed into the bone. There’s a 4 month long wait before the tooth can be affixed to the implant.
However, there are exceptional cases where dentists can immediately fix the artificial tooth as well. but Dr.
Thuthikaran does not recommend this unless there’s an emergency. If you need more than 4 months before you can return for the tooth, he tells his patients they have a 2 year period within which they should ideally have the tooth placed.
The reason for this 4 month waiting period is that the implant has to get fused to the bone, i.e. osseointegration. This is when the implant comes in direct contact with the bone. The titanium screw is threaded into the bone and after those 4 months, no matter how much you try to unscrew it, the implant won’t budge. Dr. Thuthikaran calls this the power and importance of osseointegration.
During the waiting period there is no special care, just regular immediate post-operative care. This means no hot or cold food/drink and no rinsing the mouth within the first 24 hours.
Why dental Implants?
No more falling dentures
Freedom to eat anything
Freedom of socializing without fear or embarrassment
Boosts energy because patients no longer have any added responsibility of having to look after dentures
Dr. Thuthikaran tells us that patients visit him at Asiri Central to get dental implants for both aesthetic as well as medical reasons. He recommends the procedure to those who suffer from deprivation of proper mastication capabilities. Those who can’t chew their food properly will greatly benefit from implants and can begin enjoying food again. The procedure is also suited for patients whose joints are affected by a lack of teeth. Bowel problems arising from a lack of proper mastication can also be solved by dental implants.
Dental implants have a 90-98% success rate depending on the positioning in the jaws. Upper jaw implants have a 90% success rate as the bone is softer, while lower jaw implants have a 98% success rate.
If by chance a patient is hesitant about getting new teeth permanently fixed and would much rather prefer to stabilize their dentures. then dental implants can still help with a minimal number of implants required. Dr. Thuthikaran explains that such a patient can still remove their dentures daily. but they will fit more securely into the mouth due to the implants.
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