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Dental implants: don't call the tooth fairy.


Adult tooth loss brings with it many problems, the least of which is lack of under-the-pillow cash flow. Besides causing impaired speech, poor facial contour and low self-confidence, missing teeth can also lead to progressive jawbone loss as well as the inability to keep regular dentures in place. Now, thanks to the introduction of dental implants in the U.S. eight years ago, those with missing teeth can have false teeth or even their original teeth replanted, thus sparing them the pain and expense of being fitted with dentures.

Dental implant procedures, first developed in the 1960s by a Swedish surgeon, involve the surgical insertion of titanium posts within a patient's jawbone. The posts protrude through the gum tissue, thus forming mounting points for firmly anchoring anything from a single artificial tooth to a complete lower or upper denture. Surgeons at the University of Florida (UF) College of Dentistry say the surgery may be performed under local anesthesia on an outpatient basis during multiple visits over a three- to six-month period. Candidates are primarily those who have gradually developed jawbone loss.

"Although we occasionally implant a single tooth or just a few teeth, the patients who receive the most benefit are those who have worn conventional dentures for many years," states Dr. Glenn Turner, associate professor of prosthodontics at UF and director of the UF dental implant team. "When we...anchor a dental prosthesis in place with implants, [clients] suddenly find they can chew better than they ever could with dentures." Other benefits include improved speech, facial appearance and general self-confidence. Indeed, the number of people using dental implants increased fourfold to 30,000 patients a year between 1983 and 1987. Analysts predict that figure will top 300,000 annually by 1992.

The American Dental Association (ADA) recommends, however, that if at all possible, "any tooth which is knocked out be either placed back into the socket or stored in a tooth-preserving medium until a dentist can be located." The ADA says that, once saved, the tooth should never be placed in water, dry tissues or gauze because these materials can rot the tooth until it can no longer be used. If a professional tooth-preserving container is not at hand, the best receptacle is a plastic container filled with milk and closed tightly with a secure top. Placing the tooth under the individual's tongue until he or she can be taken to the dentist (as quickly as possible) is also an alternative.

A major component of implant success is good oral hygiene. Periodic professional cleaning and daily plaque removal at home are essential to prevent inflammation and infection. Individuals interested in exploring the dental implant are encouraged to seek the advice of their dentists.
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Publication:Medical Update
Date:Oct 1, 1989
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