9654 Sparta Ave NW, Sparta, MI 49345, (616) 887-7389


I went to dental school in the mid 1970’s and our entire education about implants was one sentence of a lecture…”Don’t worry about implants, they don’t work.” So, I was pleasantly surprised the other day watching a Red Wing hockey game when the announcers were discussing a certain players loss of several teeth in a previous game. He said “Right now he (the player) has something temporary to replace his teeth but when his career is over, he’ll get the implants.” He said it as though it was common place to get implants and I thought about what progress has been made in how we think about implants and how well they work.

To sum up what an implant is, you can think about an implant being a fake root or replacement of a tooth root. Where the patient has no tooth, only gum (and bone under the gum), a titanium implant is placed in the bone and after the implant becomes very solid, the dentist attaches a crown (sometimes called a cap) to the implant. The implant is typically placed by an oral surgeon and the patients general dentist does the crown. However, more and more general dentists are placing implants too like my partner Dr. Knowlton does, to keep the appointments, billling etcetera easier for the patient. The final tooth looks completely natural and only with an x-ray can you tell that the crown is attached to an implant.

Implants work exceptionally well now. The technology is so good that we see very few failures. I have done the crowns over dozens of implants and have only had one failure and that one was redone and is working fine now. Dr. Knowlton has placed dozens of implants and restored them with no failures so far. Many patients have had abscessed teeth and had root canals done in those teeth to save them, and then the crown was done on that tooth. Implants work so well now that long term studies are being done as to what works better, root canals or implants. Perhaps one day root canals will become a thing of the past and that abscessed teeth will be removed and implants placed instead.

A frequently asked question is how much pain is involved in having an implant placed. The answer is that patients report less pain with an implant placement that with a tooth extraction. Another thing to consider if you are considering an implant is the time involved since in many instances the patient has to wait 3-4 months after the implant is placed before having the crown attached to it. That means going without a tooth (if it doesn’t show) or having something to temporarily replace the tooth while waiting the 3-4 months. Implants take several appointment over several months to complete. One nice thing is that after the implant is placed and it is ready for the crown at your general dentist, most of the time no anesthesia is necessary to make the crown over the implant.

Are implants safe? They are made out of titanium, the same metal that artificial hips and other joints are made of and do not cause allergic reactions or any other rejection type of reactions. They are so small that they do not set off metal detectors any more than your existing gold crowns or silver fillings do.

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