As anyone who’s missing a tooth can tell you, there isn’t much to love about a hole in your smile. Aside from affecting how you talk and eat, it’s not considered especially attractive. And it leaves your mouth more vulnerable to infection, disease and even more missing teeth down the road.
But how to replace that missing tooth?
These days, growing numbers of people are turning to implants. Unlike bridges, which require removing structure from the neighboring teeth that will anchor it, implants can actually strengthen adjacent teeth, as well as protect and preserve jaw bone. Considered more stable, lifelike and functional than bridges or dentures, implants are comfortable for chewing, provide plenty of room for the tongue, and are far more aesthetically appealing.
Of course, one concern – especially when tooth loss is due to gum disease – is always the health of the tissue into which an implant is to be placed. Yet new research suggests that with proper disinfection and support, even implants placed in less than ideal tissue may succeed.
The study, published last month in the Journal of Dentistry, found that dental implants may be successfully placed in an infected socket immediately after an extraction of an infected tooth, provided proper pre-treatment and a combination of techniques are applied during the procedure.
During the course of the three-year study, 36 teeth (10 incisors, 10 canines, and 16 premolars) were extracted and 36 titanium implants (Mis Ibérica) were placed after extraction, half of which were at infected sites, the test group. Implants in the control group, or at healthy sites, were placed at the same time as those in the test group.
For the test group, the researchers combined conventional techniques: pre-op antibiotics; debridation and curettage, guided bone regeneration, 90% hydrogen peroxide and clinical laser during the procedure; and post-op disinfectant rinses. The authors claimed a 100% success rate.
Of course, it must be noted that a study published last fall in the Journal of Dental Research found a strong tendency toward inflated success rates for implants. Its authors warned against promoting anything higher than a 95% survival rate.
Also notable – and more to our concern here – is that the Journal of Dentistry study used titanium implants. Metal implants can corrode over time, degrading the health of the bone, and allowing bacteria to get into the root, causing infection, abscess and maybe even loss of the implant. As these metals deteriorate, they make their way into the bloodstream and contribute to the toxic load on the entire body, causing immunological problems such as allergies, weakness to infections, depression and hair loss.
And then there’s the matter of galvanism – an an electric charge caused when dissimilar metals in the mouth (mercury in amalgams, say, along with titanium in the implant) react with electrolytes in the saliva. Galvanism can cause a multitude of symptoms such as migraines, memory loss, and chronic fatigue.
Fortunately, there are metal-free, biocompatible options available, such as the zirconium implants that holistic practices like ours are turning to. Zirconium is an inert, ceramic material that’s highly durable and hypoallergenic. Used in aerospace technology for its durability under pressure and high heat, zirconium is highly biocompatible and has been shown to osseointegrate with the jawbone more effectively than titanium alloy. It’s also naturally white in color, blending well with the gumline, heightening the natural look.
Ideally, you keep your natural teeth for the whole of your life. It’s certainly not impossible, and your natural teeth are the best ones you’ll ever have. But if you should ever lose one, it’s good to know you’ve got healthy and attractive options available to help you keep your smile whole.
Illustration via AXIS biodental