According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, three million Americans have received at least one dental implant. With that number expected to rise by 500,000 per year going forward, dental implants are well on their way to becoming the most popular form of cosmetic and corrective dental surgery in the country. Dental implants sport a 95% success rate overall, making them inarguably one of the safest procedures on the market. That being said, implants weren’t always so reliable. They’ve come a long way through the annals of history to become what they are today.
Flashback to the Pre-Columbian Americas
Cultural anthropologists and archeologists have known for quite some time that pre-Columbian American peoples, particularly those making up the Maya civilization, have been using rudimentary dental implants since at least 600 AD. Remains of a Mayan woman found in Mesoamerica show that tooth-like pieces of shell were often hammered into the jaws of people who had lost their teeth, resulting in an effective, if crude, implant.
Where We Are Today
Luckily, no dental patient has to worry about going to see their trusty dentist to have a shard of mollusk shell hammered into their jaw. Today, dental implants are installed using Space Age metals and precision tools in a three-step process. First, a metal post, usually made from a titanium alloy, is screwed into the jawline to replace the root of the missing tooth. This is a crucial step in ensuring the same feel as natural teeth when having an implant inserted. Next, a mounting cap, known as an abutment, is placed over the post. Lastly, a natural-looking tooth analog is placed over the abutment, leaving only a beautiful new tooth that will stand up to even the closest scrutiny. This entire process is spread over the course of four to 12 months, depending on how much time you need to recover in between steps.
What Puts Dental Implants Ahead of Other Replacement Options?
Dental implants have been supplanting other replacement options, most notably dentures, as the premier option for Americans with missing teeth. Implants are the only option that not only preserves existing bone but also stimulates healthy tissue growth. This is highly beneficial, especially for the patient worried about an implant procedure affecting the health of neighboring teeth.
Couple the overwhelming success rate and health benefits of choosing dental implants over other options and many would say that’s reason enough to go for implants; however, there’s more. Dental implants are widely considered to be a better option for replacement teeth because they actually act like natural teeth. There’s no removing your implants to set them in a cleaning solution over night, and there’s no applying denture paste to make sure they stay in place during the day. You simply need to brush and floss your implants to maintain them, just like your natural teeth. If you practice good dental hygiene, dental implants can last a lifetime. Try finding dentures that durable.
With something so incredibly effective for mimicking your natural teeth, you might expect an extremely invasive, painful procedure. However, most patients experience only mild to moderate discomfort after their procedures, relying on mild anti-inflammatory medication and painkillers for their short recovery period.
Needless to say, dental implants have evolved since their first appearance in our history some two and a half millennia ago. Resulting in natural feeling, great looking new teeth, it’s no great mystery why dental implants have become the first option for Americans looking to replace their missing teeth and restore their smiles.