Dental Implants for Replacing Natural Teeth Attracting More Senior Citizens
Loss of natural teeth is the final sign for many that age has caught up
Oct. 24, 2007 - These days they say 60 is the new 40, but some senior citizens are not sure their teeth have heard this news. The Center for Disease Control & Prevention says 26% of senior citizens over 65 have lost all of their teeth. The salvation, for years, was dentures. Today, however, many senior citizens are turning to dental implants, according to Dr. Michael Tischler, a national authority on the new technologies for dental implants and bone grafting.
Teeth loss is not a pleasant thought for seniors who have long seen the jokes from George Washington's wooden dentures to slapstick comedies involving teeth falling into glasses of water.
For many aging Americans, the loss of natural teeth is the final sign that age has caught up with them. Dentures, they know, most definitely signify a shift in lifestyle and can turn into an immense detriment to a person's life. Dentures sometimes have been known to cause bone loss, offer lessened chewing ability and to cause speech problems.
Increasing numbers of senior citizens are opting for dental implants.
Dental implants have become even more attractive because of introduction of Computerized Tomography (CT), says Dr. Tischler, DDS, of Tischler Dental in New York.
"It is the latest advancement in tooth replacement with dental implants and building up bone to support the implants" says Dr. Tischler, a leader in the field, who has become a nationally recognized lecturer and author on CT..
"Through utilizing CT for implant planning, procedures can be done more conservatively and faster with improved results."
What is a dental implant?
Dental implants consist of a titanium cylinder placed into the bone that approximates the function of a natural tooth. An implant can replace a single tooth, multiple teeth, or support or replace a denture.
Dr. Tischler performs both the surgical and restorative aspects of implant dentistry and says the advantages of a dentist performing both the surgical and restorative aspects of implant dentistry are numerous.
For example, he says, "when the placement of dental implants is done by the restorative dentist, the implants can be placed directly in an ideal aesthetic and restorative position."
Why use a dental implant instead of traditional dentures?
"Dental implants offer our patients that have lost teeth a second chance," he says.
With dental implants, a patient can turn back the clock, and live their life with "teeth" again. For people with dentures, he says, 29% eat only soft or mashed food, 50% avoid many foods and 17% claim they eat more efficiently without their teeth.
Additionally, he says, for those who wear complete dentures, there is 66% less chewing efficiency as compared to natural teeth.
By replacing these missing teeth, you can avoid being one of these statistics. Once a person has lost a tooth, only a dental implant will stop the bone from being lost. The stimulation that a dental implant offers will approximate a tooth, and stop bone loss. A denture actually stops blood supply and will only cause further bone loss, and impede speech and decrease chewing ability.
How do dental implants prevent bone loss?
Bone needs stimulation to maintain its form and density. That is why the astronauts lose bone mass while they are in space - their bones lack the stimulation that results from our everyday resistance to gravity.
"The bone in your jaw is constantly reinforced by the force applied by your teeth," according to Dr. Tischler. The teeth transmit force to surrounding bone, so when you lose a tooth, the lack of stimulation results in bone loss or "resorption."
Dental implants are inserted into the jawbone in place of missing teeth. Then prosthetic restorations, like porcelains, bridge-work, or dentures are attached to a post or abutment placed inside the implant.
So when you chew, the implant acts like the root of a tooth - it transmits force to the jaw and stimulates the bone. It is as if implants "trick" the bone into thinking there is still a tooth present. By transmitting the natural forces of chewing to the jaw, implants increase bone density. Dental implants have been proven not only to stop bone loss, but in some cases actually to reverse bone loss and restore the health of the jaw.
How can bone grafting help?
In many instances, Dr. Tischler says, a potential implant site in the upper or lower jaw does not offer enough bone volume or quantity to accommodate a dental implant of proper size or in the proper place. This is usually a result of bone resorption (process of losing substance) that has taken place since one or more teeth (if not all) were lost.
Bone grafting procedures usually try to re-establish bone dimension, which was lost due to resorption. A bone graft normally takes at least six months to heal before a dental implant can be placed into it.
There are times also that multiple grafts may be needed to produce the amount of bone needed, says Dr. Tischler. This is dependent on a person's health and amount of bone being grafted. Years ago the lack of bone posed a considerable problem and sometimes rendered implant placement impossible.
"Today, however, it is possible to grow bone where needed," according to Dr. Tischler.
"This not only gives us the opportunity to place implants of proper length and width, it also allows a dentist to restore the aesthetic appearance and functionality of natural teeth."