As much as I’ve complained, over the years about dental school, I realized how fortunate I was to graduate from such a progressive school (University of Texas Health Science Center – San Antonio). One of my tutors was a periodontist named Roland Meffet and under his tutelage, I placed two implants in dental school. Highly unusual! We didn’t know back then that they were largely slow failures – some faster than others. It was several years later that a dentistry/researcher named Branemark in Sweden developed an implant system that would “osseointegrate” in the patient. This just means that the patient’s bone would grow to the implant surface and the implant essentially became part of the patient’s bone. Suddenly, we have long-term implant success and we now can restore areas with restorations that were impossible before. Treatment options blossomed.
As wonderful as implants are, we have several problems which keep them from being perfect.
The number one problem is lack of bone. An under apricated fact is that teeth in the mouth help hold the bone at healthy levels. When a tooth is removed, the bone around that tooth begins to resorb, by as much has 60% in the first two years. The resolution continues of a decreasing rate from that point. Additionally, traumatic extractions often times removed amounts of bone. However, the unwanted effects of extractions can be greatly mitigated by a bone graft at the time of extractions. Also, grafting can be done in certain situations to create enough bone in which to place on implant. However, sometimes there is just not enough bone and implants are not an option.
Another problem that hinders placement is cost. It is expensive to manufacture an implant out of medical grade titanium, coat it with a substance that makes it more adaptive to human bone and deliver it to a patient in super sterile condition. The dentist also has to acquire extensive training to safely deliver implants. Thus, implants are expensive!
Let’s see. Implants are expansive and we can’t use them in every circumstance. Why all the fuss? Because implants allow us to restore the mouth in wonderful, natural ways. They work as good as teeth and sometimes even better.
I don’t know what the future holds but I do know that there will be amazing changes. I’m so thankful that in this time we have the restorative options made possible by implants.