Periodontists report dental implants are bringing smiles to patients' faces

November 16, 2000

CHICAGO - Periodontists are placing more implants than they did five years ago, and the vast majority of their patients are very satisfied with the results, according to a recent online poll of periodontists conducted by the American Academy of Periodontology (AAP).

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root placed into the jaw to hold a replacement tooth or bridge in place. Nearly 88 percent of the 295 periodontists polled reported that they perform implant surgery. Many of these respondents wrote in that their patients with implants often tell them that they forget the implants are not their natural teeth.

The survey showed that people from all age groups are opting for implants. However, 43 percent of the periodontists polled said half or more of the implants they place are for people ages 55 to 79, while 31 percent reported that half or more of the implants that they place are for the baby boomers - people ages 35 to 54. The top reasons for tooth loss leading to implant placement were periodontal disease, tooth decay and accidents, violence or injuries.

Dental implants have proven to be the answer for many people with missing or damaged teeth - from the 21-year-old woman who had trained herself not to smile or laugh for fear of exposing her damaged front teeth to the public speaker who had experienced losing his teeth during a speech. "I've been told by my patients that getting implants changed their whole life and made them look and feel younger," said Ira Port, D.M.D., a periodontist in Toms River, N.J., echoing a sentiment expressed by many of the periodontists surveyed.

Periodontists say the biggest deterrent for patients who decide against dental implants is cost. The average charge for a single implant placed by a periodontist is between $1,000 and $2,000, according to the survey. Implants are usually not covered by dental insurance. However, periodontists point out that implants, while expensive in the short term, are long-lasting and more tooth-saving than traditional bridgework since they do not rely on neighboring teeth for support.

"You can't put a price tag on some of the esthetic and health benefits of dental implants," said Michael McGuire, D.D.S., president of AAP. "Dental implants integrate with the jawbone to help prevent the loss of bone that accompanies conventional dentures or bridges.

Loss of bone can lead to visible defects for people missing a single tooth or collapsed smiles for people who have lost all of their teeth. In addition, implants allow most people to return to a regular diet, including apples and corn on the cob."

Another deterrent cited by about 10 percent of the periodontists was the time commitment involved in getting implants. The survey found that on average placing a single implant takes between five-and-a-half and seven-and-a-half months. After the implant is placed, it usually takes about two to six months for it to bond with the bone to form an anchor for the artificial tooth.

During this time a temporary tooth replacement option can be worn. Often, a second step is then necessary to uncover the implant and attach an extension, which completes the foundation for the new tooth. The gums are allowed healing time following this step.

About 73 percent of periodontists described the level of pain or discomfort that the majority of patients experience in the process of getting implants as very little to none. Another 23 percent said getting implants is only somewhat painful or uncomfortable during limited periods of time. Many periodontists wrote in that their patients have commented after getting implants that they were surprised by the lack of pain.

Not everyone is a candidate for dental implants. Adequate bone in your jaw is needed to support the implant, and the best candidates have healthy gum tissues that are free of periodontal disease. People who have missing or damaged teeth should ask their periodontists if they are a candidate and about the process and cost involved for them.
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A referral to a periodontist or free brochures, including Dental Implants: Teeth that Look and Feel Just Like Your Own are available by calling 1-800-FLOSS-EM, or visit the AAP's Web site at http://www.perio.org

The AAP is a 7,500-member association of dental professionals specializing in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of diseases affecting the gums and supporting structures of the teeth and in the placement of dental implants. Periodontics is one of nine dental specialties recognized by the American Dental Association.

American Academy of Periodontology

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