A dental implant (also known as an Endosseous implant or fixture) is a surgical component that interfaces with the bone of the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, denture, facial prosthesis or to act as an orthodontic anchor. The basis for modern dental implants is a biologic process called osseointegration where materials, such as titanium, form an intimate bond to bone. The implant fixture is first placed, so that it is likely to osseointegrate, then a dental prosthetic is added. A variable amount of healing time is required for osseointegration before either the dental prosthetic (a tooth, bridge or denture) is attached to the implant or an abutment is placed which will hold a dental prosthetic.
Success or failure of implants depends on the health of the person receiving it, drugs which impact the chances of osseointegration and the health of the tissues in the mouth. The amount of stress that will be put on the implant and fixture during normal function is also evaluated. Planning the position and number of implants is key to the long-term health of the prosthetic since biomechanical forces created during chewing can be significant. The position of implants is determined by the position and angle of adjacent teeth, lab simulations or by using computed tomography with CAD/CAM simulations and surgical guides called stents. The prerequisites to long-term success of osseointegrated dental implants are healthy bone and gingiva. Since both can atrophy after tooth extraction pre-prosthetic procedures, such as sinus lifts or gingival grafts, are sometimes required to recreate ideal bone and gingiva.
The final prosthetic can be either fixed, where a person cannot remove the denture or teeth from their mouth or removable, where they can remove the prosthetic. In each case an abutment is attached to the implant fixture. Where the prosthetic is fixed, the crown, bridge or denture is fixed to the abutment with either lag screws or dental cement. Where the prosthetic is removable, a corresponding adapter is placed in the prosthetic so that the two pieces can be secured together.
The risks and complications related to implant therapy are divided into those that occur during surgery (such as excessive bleeding or nerve injury), those that occur in the first six months (such as infection and failure to osseointegrate) and those that occur long-term (such as peri-implantitis and mechanical failures). In the presence of healthy tissues, a well-integrated implant with appropriate biomechanical loads can have 5-year plus survival rates from 93 to 98 percent and 10 to 15 year lifespans for the prosthetic teeth.
Main Surgical Procedures
Placing the Implant
Most implant systems have five basic steps for placement of each implant:
Soft tissue reflection
An incision is made over the crest of bone, splitting the thicker attached gingiva roughly in half so that the final implant will have a thick band of tissue around it. The edges of tissue, each referred to as a flap are pushed back to expose the bone. Flapless surgery is an alternate technique, where a small punch of tissue (the diameter of the implant) is removed for implant placement rather than raising flaps.
Drilling at high speed
After reflecting the soft tissue, and using a surgical guide or stent as necessary, pilot holes are placed with precision drills at highly regulated speed to prevent burning or pressure necrosis of the bone.
Drilling at low speed
The pilot hole is expanded by using progressively wider drills (typically between three and seven successive drilling steps, depending on implant width and length). Care is taken not to damage the osteoblast or bone cells by overheating. A cooling saline or water spray keeps the temperature low.
Placement of the implant
The implant screw is placed and can be self-tapping, otherwise the prepared site is tapped with an implant analog. It is then screwed into place with a torque controlled wrench at a precise torque so as not to overload the surrounding bone (overloaded bone can die, a condition called osteonecrosis, which may lead to failure of the implant to fully integrate or bond with the jawbone).
The gingiva is adapted around the entire implant to provide a thick band of healthy tissue around the healing abutment. In contrast, an implant can be “buried”, where the top of the implant is sealed with a cover screw and the tissue is closed to completely cover it. A second procedure would then be required to uncover the implant at a later date.
There are different approaches to placement dental implants after tooth extraction. The approaches are:
1.Immediate post-extraction implant placement
2.Delayed immediate post-extraction implant placement (two weeks to three months after extraction)
3.Late implantation (three months or more after tooth extraction)
4.There are also various options for when to attach teeth to dental implants, classified into:
immediate loading procedure
Early loading (one week to twelve weeks)
Delayed loading (over three months)
For an implant to become permanently stable, the body must grow bone to the surface of the implant (osseointegration). Based on this biologic process, it was thought that loading an implant during the osseointegration period would result in movement that would prevent osseointegration, and thus increase implant failure rates. As a result, three to six months of integrating time (depending on various factors) was allowed before placing the teeth on implants (restoring them).
However, later research suggests that the initial stability of the implant in bone is a more important determinant of success of implant integration, rather than a certain period of healing time. As a result, the time allowed to heal is typically based on the density of bone the implant is placed in and the number of implants splinted together, rather than a uniform amount of time. When implants can withstand high torque (35 Ncm) and are splinted to other implants, there are no meaningful differences in long-term implant survival or bone loss between implants loaded immediately, at three months, or at six months. The corollary is that single implants, even in solid bone, require a period of no-load to minimize the risk of initial failure.
One-stage, two-stage surgery
After an implant is placed, the internal components are covered with either a healing abutment, or a cover screw. A healing abutment passes through the mucosa, and the surrounding mucosa is adapted around it. A cover screw is flush with the surface of the dental implant, and is designed to be completely covered by mucosa. After an integration period, a second surgery is required to reflect the mucosa and place a healing abutment.
In the early stages of implant development (1970−1990), implant systems used a two-stage approach, believing that it improved the odds of initial implant survival. Subsequent research suggests that no difference in implant survival existed between one-stage and two-stage surgeries, and the choice of whether or not to “bury” the implant in the first stage of surgery became a concern of soft tissue (gingiva) management. When tissue is deficient or mutilated by the loss of teeth, implants are placed and allowed to osseointegrate, then the gingiva is surgically moved around the healing abutments.
An increasingly common strategy to preserve bone and reduce treatment times includes the placement of a dental implant into a recent extraction site. On the one hand, it shortens treatment time and can improve esthetics because the soft tissue envelope is preserved. On the other hand, implants may have a slightly higher rate of initial failure. Conclusions on this topic are difficult to draw, however, because few studies have compared immediate and delayed implants in a scientifically rigorous manner.
Hard tissue (bone) reconstruction
Bone grafting is necessary when there is a lack of bone. While there are always new implant types, such as short implants, and techniques to allow compromise, a general treatment goal is to have a minimum of 10 mm in bone height, and 6 mm in width. Alternatively, bone defects are graded from A to D (A=10+ mm of bone, B=7–9 mm, C=4–6 mm and D=0–3 mm) where an implant’s likelihood of osseointegrating is related to the grade of bone.
To achieve an adequate width and height of bone, various bone grafting techniques have been developed. The most frequently used is called guided bone graft augmentation where a defect is filled with either natural (harvested or autograft) bone or allograft (donor bone or synthetic bone substitute), covered with a semi-permeable membrane and allowed to heal. During the healing phase, natural bone replaces the graft forming a new bony base for the implant.
Three common procedures are:
1.The sinus lift
2.Lateral alveolar augmentation
3.Vertical alveolar augmentation.
Other, more invasive procedures, also exist for larger bone defects including mobilization of the inferior alveolar nerve to allow placement of a fixture, onlay bone grafting using the iliac crest or another large source of bone and microvascular bone graft where the blood supply to the bone is transplanted with the source bone and reconnected to the local blood supply. The final decision about which bone grafting technique that is best is based on an assessment of the degree of vertical and horizontal bone loss that exists, each of which is classified into mild (2–3 mm loss), moderate (4–6 mm loss) or severe (greater than 6 mm loss).