Am I a Good Candidate?
To be a good candidate for implant treatment, your jaws must have enough bone and we must be able to expect uncomplicated bone healing. This varies from person to person, and there are a number of factors to consider.
First of all, you must be in good health. As you might imagine, successful implant treatment relies upon your ability to heal well.
There are a few medical conditions, for example diabetes, which have been found to significantly interfere with healing and are linked to a lower success rate. With good medical care, these conditions can often be controlled to a point that still allows the use of implants.
Of greater concern for a larger proportion of patients is either smoking, or a history of using osteoporosis medications like Fosamax or Actonel. Both of these situations interfere significantly with bone healing, and in these cases a non-implant alternative would generally be preferred. If you have questions about any of these medical issues, discuss them with your dentist.
You may be pleased to know that neither age nor gender has any ill effect on implant treatment. Adults of all ages now enjoy the benefits of modern dental implants.
Next, you must have enough bone to completely surround the implant, and both the implant and the bone must be strong enough to withstand biting forces. Think of implant treatment as an engineering problem. It is easy to compare implant treatment with building a bridge with its footings, foundations, pillars, and road surface.
Your dentist is generally able to make a good approximation of the available bone by measuring and feeling its shape. There are also some critical structures, like large nerves and blood vessels, which must be avoided. Most of the time, implant placement can be safely planned with an oral examination and conventional x-rays. Some situations require a more thorough x-ray examination, such as a CAT scan.
Your restorative dentist can also make a good estimate of the strength of the bone that will support the implant. Bone strength varies from place to place within your mouth. The heaviest, strongest bone is in the front of your lower jaw while the lightest, less strong bone is in the molar area of your upper jaw. This variation in strength must be considered when selecting the number and type of implants to be placed.
To be sure, there are risks to implant treatment. Surgical damage to a nerve could cause a long term feeling of numbness in the lip. Failure to plan for enough implants of the right size could lead to a weak restoration which fails under normal biting forces. The importance of good planning and close communication between your dentist and surgeon cannot be overstressed. With thorough planning and close cooperation, today more than 95% of all implants are a success.