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Vail Dental Health: Implants becoming less invasive, painful

Dr. Jim Harding
Special to the Daily
Vail, CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado –A growing number of people are turning to dental implants to replace missing teeth. Dental implants are simply a titanium screw placed into the jawbone to simulate a tooth root so a crown, bridge or denture can be attached. Dental implants produce beautiful results and the procedure involves little pain.

The first step is to have a qualified dentist evaluate the possible implant site to determine if there is adequate bone present to place an implant. This can be done by a general dentist, periodontist, or oral surgeon especially trained in dental implants.

Whoever performs the exam, it is important that they have the correct technology to evaluate the possible implant space in three dimensions. This is usually done with what is called a CBCT x-ray. It is like a CT scan, but one for a dentist, because it can show a 3D model of the jaw with minimal exposure to radiation. CBCT x-rays are often times the most important factor, besides the dentist’s skill and experience, in determining the possible implant options.



If there is not enough bone to support the implant, then a bone graft might be needed. The field of bone grafting has changed dramatically in just a short period of time. Dentists now use bone material to predictably grow bone allowing implants to be placed in areas that would have been considered impossible only a few years ago. Today, bone grafting is quick and painless and should no longer be considered a major setback to dental implants.

Once a site is ready for a dental implant, the procedure is performed in a manner that is as non-invasive as possible. This means that post-operative issues are minimal and most people go back to work and get on with their day just like with other routine dental procedures. Once the dental implant has been placed, the dentist will decide how long to wait before “loading” the implant with a crown or prosthesis. The timeframe can vary depending on the particular needs of the patient. An implant that is loaded is able to support the tooth or teeth in a way that it replicates a tooth root.



The loading of dental implants was traditionally delayed for several months while the bone adapted to the titanium screw, a process was coined “osseointegration” back in the 1950s by the father of modern dental implants, PI Branemark. In the past few years this waiting period has been shortened and even completely ignored in ideal circumstances. With “early-loading” patients don’t have to go many months without teeth or with provisional restorations. While “early-loading” can be successful, the idea of “same-day” implants is a misnomer at best, and in many cases nothing more than deceptive marketing technique used to mislead the unknowing general public.

After the implant is placed and integrated, the dentist will begin the process of making the final restoration. A prospective patient should do some careful research to find a dentist with skill and artistry. Today’s dental crowns, bridges and dentures are more beautiful than ever. In fact, it is not uncommon for someone without any natural teeth to have a smile so amazing that even the most discerning eye could never tell.

If you are considering dental implants, make sure all of your questions are answered in advance. Ask your dental professional to explain the process, review options and take the necessary records. These procedures are not to be feared, but rather thought of as a way to regain that smile you have always dreamed of and deserve.



Dr. Jim Harding has received post-graduate training in dental implants. He owns the Harding Dental Center (www.hardingdentalcenter.com) in Avon. E-mail comments about this column to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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