Dental Implants are designed to provide a foundation for replacement teeth that look, feel and function like natural teeth. The person who has lost teeth regains the ability to eat virtually anything and can smile with confidence, knowing that teeth appear natural and that facial contours will be preserved. The implants themselves are tiny titanium posts that are placed into the jawbone where teeth are missing. The bone bonds with the titanium, creating a strong foundation for artificial teeth. In addition, implants can help preserve facial structure, preventing the bone deterioration that occurs when teeth are missing.
Dental Implants have revolutionized dentistry in general and periodontology in particular. A major paradigm shift in dentistry has occurred in the last 15 years because dental implants are such a predictable alternative to severely diseased teeth. If a tooth (or teeth) is so badly compromised that even with extensive dental treatment, it will not have a good long term prognosis, and then many times a more predictable alternative is replacement of the diseased tooth with an implant. Instead of saving a crippled tooth with endodontic therapy (root canal), crown lengthening surgery (removing the bone around a tooth to prepare it for a crown), post and core inside the tooth root is replaced by a dental implant and a crown is placed on the implant by your general dentist. The paradigm shift is that we can now regenerate health and function rather than maintain disease.
Dr. Du is an expert in implantology as well as periodontology. Through extensive training during his residency at UCSF and through his extensive continuing education, we offer our patients the best implant therapies available. Because Periodontists work closely with general dentists and are experts in occlusion, they are able to position implants to optimize their effectiveness in helping you chew and bite.
Evaluation and Consultation
If you are missing teeth and have concerns about the health of your teeth you can contact our office for an evaluation and consultation. If your dentist has referred you for an evaluation, we can work with their office to have any radiographic images that they may have sent to us to reduce your x-ray exposure. If you schedule an implant evaluation directly with our office, we will contact your dentist to request x-rays. A full set of x-rays (FMX) will be optimal for your evaluation to exclude problems in other parts of your mouth. While implants are predictable, if there is disease present in other areas of your mouth, it can be problematic for the long term health of implants,(in addition to your other teeth and your general health). If no x-rays are available, we can take them with our state of the art digital x-ray system. Additionally sometimes dental CAT scans are necessary.
During the evaluation Dr. Du will perform an oral cancer screen, a TMJ evaluation and a check of the health of your remaining teeth. In some cases, impressions for models are needed to measure your bite.
When all data has been collected, Dr. Du will discuss your situation and options you have for treatment. It is important for you to let us know your wants and desires for your treatment. That way we can help you choose which options are right for you.
Options for Treatment
An implant placed in the jawbone can function in many ways, depending on how it is restored. The same implant placed in bone could replace a single missing tooth, be part of an implant bridge, make a loose partial denture solid, or help allow a person with a full denture to be able to chew food, socialize without worrying their denture might fall out, and enjoy life again.
With all of these options, in complex cases, it is important that Dr. Du and your general dentist work closely with you to decide on the best option(s) for you. Sometimes Dr. Du will meet together with you and your general dentist where all questions from surgery to what type of crown(s) your dentist will place can be answered together. If you don’t have a general dentist, Dr. Du can refer you to an outstanding dentist in our area that he has worked with.
Am I a candidate for implants?
As long as you have enough bone and are in relatively good health, you probably are a candidate for implants. If there are any health related questions, Dr. Du will consult with your physician.
If there is any question about adequate bone being available to hold in implants, CAT scans can let us know for sure. We have state of the art technology (“Simplant”) to process CAT scan sections into computerized 3 D models that allow extremely precise placement of the implant. Dr. Du and your general dentist will plan placement together in your virtual jaw on our computer and have a surgical stent (“Surgiguide”) fabricated in Belgium to use in your surgery to precise angulation and placement in areas of minimal, but adequate bone; areas where the implant will be close to vital structures; or situations where multiple implants will be placed or where parallel placement of the implants is critical for restoration by your general dentist.
What if I don’t have enough bone?
With today’s technologies, bone can be grafted in most situations to replace bone lost through age or disease.
Is there an age limit on implants?
Yes and no. Young people must wait until they are reasonably sure they have finished their “growth spurts”. This is approximately 18 to 20 years of age. For older patients, age is not a problem. Older patients have just as high a success rate as younger patients. Being in relatively good health is more important than age. Dr. Du has routinely placed implants in patients up into their 80’s. Be sure to let us know if you are on osteoporosis medicines (biophosphenates) or have any serious medical problems. A consultation if needed with your physician can be made from our office and will help ensure your safe treatment.
How long will it take?
Depending on your situation, time can vary between 2 months to 1 year from the beginning of treatment to when you are enjoying your new teeth. If you require regrowth of lost bone, up to six months may be needed for new bone to harden sufficiently to place implants.
Our Simplant technology allows us to place implants and dentures on the same day, (“teeth in a day”) in very limited and specific circumstances. However, the more short cuts that are taken, the more possible complications. Our protocols used are predictable and give long lasting results. “Teeth for a lifetime” is our goal, not necessarily “Teeth in a day”. If there is any question, it is best to allow adequate time for Mother Nature to do her job.
How much will this cost?
In uncomplicated cases we can give you a very close estimate of your fees for implant placement. With more complex cases, it is difficult to know how you will respond to regenerative procedures. Sometimes multiple regenerative surgeries may be needed. In any event, the fee we quote you will be the maximum that you will be charged if multiple surgeries are needed. (i.e., worst case scenario). If your treatment ends up being less complicated, your cost will be less.
Please be aware that although implants are the standard of care for replacement of missing teeth, many insurance companies do not pay for them. Also, our fees are for placing implants into your bone (“foundation” or “replacement roots”). Your general dentist will charge additional fees to place “abutments” and “crowns” on the implants. You are best off knowing both sets of fees before treatment so there are no surprises.