Scientific Breakthroughs Provide Hope for the Toothless

Dental implants have changed the lives of many people all over the world suffering from edentulism (complete or partial loss of teeth). Tooth loss affects the geriatric population the greatest and is on the rise for this group with about 23 million now suffering from complete edentulism. While research shows that around 90% do have dentures, many don’t realize another, much better option is available.

Because of the difficulty in achieving a good and comfortable fit when using dentures, many still suffer from poor nutritional health and difficulty speaking clearly. Since dentures don’t fill the roots where the teeth once were, the jaw bone begins to reabsorb and the structural changes that occur in the face lead to premature and exaggerated aging. The combination of pain, difficulty eating and speaking and the physical changes of early aging find many facing a poor quality of life, and some even struggle with depression and anxiety as a result.

Dr. Gregory Kerbel, DDS, PLLC, leading DFW area family and cosmetic dentist in Garland, TX, says,

Dental implants are made of titanium, which is highly compatible with the human body, and unique in that it allows the bone to grow directly on its surface. After placement, the implant integrates with the bone (called osseointegration) and provides the stimulation for the jawbone that the tooth and root once did, maintaining its strength. Not only do eating and speaking become as natural as they were meant to be, but the jawbone loss is also stopped if it has already begun or prevented if the procedure is done early enough after tooth loss. The success rate is over 95% and growing thanks to scientific advances that are being published with great potential.”

Infection and its effect on the success of implant placement have been the latest focus of research. Last month alone, two huge scientific breakthroughs were announced. One, a dental vaccine, the first of its kind in the world, that can help stop gum disease and the recolonization of bacteria that occurs even after treatment. This means that those suffering from gum disease will find more success in treatment and therefore potentially lower the risk of complications with implant surgery. Trials for the vaccine are expected to begin in 2018. The second major discovery involves a gel coating for implant screws that prevents bacterial infections, helps stop them if they do occur and also helps the bone and screw integrate successfully much faster than before. There’s still more testing to be done before it’s ready to be used in oral surgeries and dental offices, but it’s exciting news for the dental community and anyone considering implants.

Kerbel says,

“There are a few other factors, some preventable, that can also affect the success of an implant. It’s not breaking news that smoking slows down the body’s healing process as researchers have been saying this for decades. So, it’s no different in dental procedures and may, in fact, be even more relevant as the teeth and mouth come in direct contact with these toxic chemicals. By reducing the flow of blood and oxygen throughout the body, the risk of failure and infection are much higher in smokers especially during the first several weeks after the procedure. Studies have also shown that failure that occurs years down the road is also much more likely in smokers versus nonsmokers.”

The delayed healing process associated with those suffering from diabetes can also increase the risk of failure. In the past, many believed those with uncontrolled diabetes were not candidates for implants at all. However, recent studies published in the Journal of the American Dental Association show that those with diabetes can successfully have them placed without complication as long as there is no presence of active gum disease.

Scientific research and technology is an amazing thing that changes the world of medicine every year. With such high success rates already, it will be incredible to see how these new products will enhance the dental community and patient care when they finish testing and reach the market.