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The German Center for Dental Implantology

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Dental implants - what exactly are they?

Dental implants are artificial pillars inserted into the jawbone to support an artificial tooth or a dental prosthesis.

Worldwide, there are about 80 large manufacturers producing around 2000 different types of dental implants. Thus, there is no "typical" dental implant. In the hands of an experienced implantologist, every scientifically and clinically developed and tested implant is useful - but not for every application. It is therefore very important that the treating implantologist has the required experience to decide which implant to use for your particular case.

Dental implants are usually made from pure titanium. Pure titanium is biologically neutral and does not provoke any allergies or rejections in the recipient body. For this reason, it is ideally suited to adhere to the jaw. Ceramic implants used in the past showed similar results in adhering to the bone, but the other properties of the material, especially its stability under pressure, however, were inferior. To support the process of adhesion, the surface to the dental implants is keyed and drilled in special processes, so that the bone can adhere to and grow into the implant as good as possible. The part of the implant that protrudes the bone is smoothed down as much as possible to prevent the adhesion or formation of germs or coatings.

There are two very common types of dental implants:

Cylindrical dental implants

Cylindrical dental implants are very similar to a screw or dowel, both in form and function. They are anchored into the bone, and after the gums have healed, will act as the root to the artificial tooth that is fixed on top of the implant's head. This type of implant is best suited to replace a single tooth in an environment with sufficient bone material. Using the screw form helps in achieving instant stability despite small variations in the size of the drilled hole.

Butterfly dental implants

Compared to cylindrical dental implants, butterfly implants are not very deep, but rather wide. The implant consists of a small - only 1 mm thick - blade bearing the pillars that will later support the artificial teeth. The blade is pervaded by small holes, through which the bone will later grow, thus giving the implant maximum stability. Drilling a very exact bearing for the implant is essential for this type of implant, and should only be done by dentists with sufficient experience in performing the surgery.

Butterfly implants are best used to support several artificial teeth on a single implant. They are also used in difficult cases, for instance when the jaw bone has retracted to a point that it is no longer deep enough to support a cylindrical implant.

It is crucial that the treating dentist selects the type of implant best suited to your case, and that he also explains why he thinks the selected implant is the best for you. In all cases, the decision must be made based on the bone structure available. The implant must be made to suit the patient, not the other way around. Unfortunately, many dentists practising implantology do not have sufficient education and use just one type of implant. This results in cases where dentists, educated only on the use of cylindrical implants, insert implants that are much too large into a jawbone that is far too thin to support them. Often, they lack the courage to send a patient that cannot be treated with their own methods to a specialized institution. The results are suboptimal from a medical standpoint and they hinder the patients in their effort to achieve long-term success with their dental implants.

Continue reading: Dental implants - the treatment.