Many are surprised to learn the long history of dental implants.Dating as far back as 2500 BC, ancient societies devised ingenious ways to replace missing teeth, utilizing materials including jade, iron, bamboo, ivory and gold. An archeological site excavating Mayan ruins estimated to be over 1300 years old, revealed a skull with tooth-shaped shells imbedded in the lower jaw. Incredibly, evidence indicated the jaw bone showed signs of regeneration and had fused to the sea shells. These ancient finds reveal early humans struggled with tooth decay and gum disease (just as we do) and went to great lengths to create dental implants.
Titanium – A Key Discovery
In the 1950s, a Swedish physician and professor, Per-Ingvar Brånemark, performed research that revealed titanium, when surgically implanted properly, would fuse with bones in a process known as osseointegration. Since that critical discovery, dental implants using titanium have improved dramatically. Currently, millions of people worldwide have dental implants with over 500,000 procedures occurring each year in the United States alone.
Modern dental implants are a technological and surgical marvel achieving an almost unheard of 95 percent success rate. A miracle prosthetic that restores patient’s smiles and boosts their confidence, dental implants are the only option that combines strength and stability with the function, ability and look of natural teeth. In fact, dental implants are so effective, many people mistakenly assume they are indestructible.
Gum Disease – An American Epidemic
Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is rampant in America. According to the Centers for Disease Control nearly 50 percent of adults suffer from some form of gum disease. That number increases to 70 percent in senior citizens 65 years or older. In total, over 67 million Americans are affected by periodontal disease. Further, nearly 25 percent of all seniors age 74 and older have lost all their natural teeth. These statistics indicate millions of Americans are suffering tooth loss due to periodontitis yet many are unaware they are suffering from the disease. As a result, millions of patients are receiving implants which has given rise to increasing numbers of Americans suffering from peri-implantitis.
Peri-implantitis is an inflammation and bone loss surrounding an osseointegrated tooth implant, which is similar in all respects to periodontitis – the inflammation of the gums, soft tissue and bones surrounding natural teeth. Because dental implants are made of titanium with ceramic crowns, some patients have a false sense of security about their new teeth, however it is imperative to care for implants exactly as you would natural teeth. According to a study published by the National Institutes of Health, 28 percent of individuals who received dental implants developed peri-implantitis.
How to Prevent Gum Disease When You Have Implants
The bacteria that causes periodontitis and the resulting loss of natural teeth is not eliminated by having implant surgery. It is important for patients to realize that the battle against bacterial plaque is a daily exercise. Prevention is always the best approach. Brushing at least twice a day to gently remove plaque from teeth and gums is essential. Choosing the right toothbrush is important. Upon finding out they may have peri-implantitis, many patients make the mistake of over-brushing or brushing too vigorously to compensate for previous neglect. However, brushing too strenuously can do further damage to gums. Cleaning between implants can be accomplished by flossing or using small brushes. Scheduling a visit with your dentist (especially if it’s been awhile) will help, as well as regular cleanings. If you take care of your implants, they will take care of you. As long as they receive proper care, your implants can last a lifetime.