An implant, in essence, is just a titanium screw that is placed in the bone. The whole history of dental implants is very long and I won’t go into the full details of it, but the most important thing that we need to know is that the earliest modern dental implants were placed by Professor Branemark in 1965. They stayed integrated in the patient’s mouth for over 40 years as of the last time it was checked. And they have very good long-term function.
The reason implants work so well and the bone is because of a mechanism called Osseointegration.
In this mechanism, bone grows around titanium implants, and anchors the implants firmly in the bone so that it is able to support other structures. Once an implant is integrated, it can be used to restore a whole host of different things. For example, if you’re missing a single tooth, it can replace that single tooth. If you’re missing a few teeth, a couple of implants can be used to form a bridge to hold all the missing teeth. If you are missing all your teeth, implants can also be used to restore a full arch of implant bridges, or the more common All-On-4 kind of design. Sometimes, implants can also be used for dentures, if we want to use them just for the extra security so that the dentures don’t move around when you’re talking and eating.
A less known function of implants is that they can be used for maxillofacial prosthetics. So, patients for example, who have lost a nose or an ear due to cancer, they are able to reconstruct that by placing implants in those surrounding bony structures and getting a prosthesis that can clip onto those implants.
Patients often ask, “what brand of implant is best?”. That is a perfectly reasonable question. The thing about modern dental implants is that almost all of them are probably going to integrate with the bone at approximately the same rate. They will be able to anchor into the bone and the bone will form around the implants. So that part is well studied and well accepted. So, it’s not so much whether or not it will fuse to the bone; it’s more about how we use the implants to restore and give you back the smile that you are looking for. That’s where a prosthodontist comes in. Prosthodontists specialize in restoring missing teeth and structures, and part of that involves the use of dental implants.
It’s important to note that implant parts are proprietary, meaning, the parts from one brand will probably not be able to fit with another brand. As a prosthodontist, when I am restoring an implant or picking an implant company, one of the things I’m always looking for is how versatile the components are. Whether they are able to help me restore all different kinds of situation, be it a single tooth or an implant overdenture.
Another feature I look for, is how widely available the implant parts are. If it is a reputable company with a long history of success that operates in many countries, that is a good sign that the implant is probably going to be around for many years to come. Hopefully, for the lifetime of your implant as well. You would be surprised at just how many implant brands have come and gone over the years, leaving patients with implants and implant prosthetics in need of repair or replacement that nobody can get parts for. It’s a terrible problem to have.
As much as it is nice to support small, local brands, implant dentistry is one of those areas were a bigger, more established company is definitely a safer bet.
As a patient, it is in your interest to ask your surgeon or your prosthodontist what kind of implants they are planning to use to restore your teeth. Another important piece of information is how readily available these parts are. Be it in the United States or overseas if you are going to be living abroad for a period of time.
When you have implant treatment, it is always a good idea to get the brand, the diameter, the size of the implant that was used in your mouth, so that if you have to change providers, move to a different state, or out of the country, you are able to follow up with another prosthodontist for care, and they are able to find the correct components that you need.