Even though dental implants were thought to originate around 2500 BC, during the time of the ancient Egyptians, it wasn't until the last few decades that they became popular options for patients dealing with some type of tooth loss or damage requiring some type of replacement. Since modern dental implants are specifically designed to be very similar to natural teeth in appearance, comfort and durability, patients now often choose them over other dental appliances, such as traditional dentures and bridgework. If you are a dental patient who is unsure about your best option for a current tooth replacement or would like to know what future options might soon be available, the recent innovations outlined below may provide your with some very convincing reasons to consider dental implantation.
The Grow-Your-Own Implant
While this option is still in the experimental stages, it offers a real glimpse of the constantly evolving field of dental implants. Using stem cells, which have the ability to multiply and morph into many types of human body cells, researchers believe that human tooth replacements can someday be grown right in the dental patient's mouth. Currently, researchers have already had some success in growing a tooth-like structure by using cells from human gums and special stem cells from mice, called mesenchymal stem cells. The mesenchymal stem cells are combined with the gum cells and then implanted inside the kidneys of adult mice, where they grow into a recognizable tooth structure, complete with visible roots and enamel.
The Mini Implant
The dental implantation process typically results in one or more replacement teeth that patients generally find to be comfortable and easy to care for, but the process does take time for both the procedures involved and several weeks of healing. A recent innovation, however, has developed a mini implant procedure that offers some patients a faster, less-invasive process that can heal more quickly than a standard implant. A mini implant can have other benefits, too, such as:
- requiring fewer visits to the dentist for the entire procedure (sometimes as few as two visits)
- a non-surgical installation process for the post that cuts healing time from weeks to hours
- no requirement for bone grafts
- a procedure that can be done with local anesthetic in the office of the dental care provider
- a lower overall cost than traditional dental implants
Because mini implants are not yet widely used, your dental care professional is your best source of additional information about the procedure. If you decide you would like to pursue a mini implant, they can also help you determine if the procedure can be done locally and if your dental insurance provides coverage. If the procedure is not yet being done in your area, they may be able to provide a reference to a reputable dentist who specializes in mini implantation.
The 3D Implant
If you have ever watched a crime show, you likely know that dental records are often used to identify bodies that are so decomposed that they can no longer be visually identified. This is possible because each person has unique oral features, such as:
- the configuration of the teeth in the jawbone, including spacing, any missing teeth and specific tooth size and shape
- specific areas of tooth damage or visible dental repairs that are notable on the dental records
- specific, recognizable dental appliances, such as braces, dentures, etc.
- specific traits and tooth development patterns which can help indicate the sex, age and ethic origins of the body
These features are excellent proof that each person's teeth are unique. Because of this, attempting to use generic implants often creates comfort issues for the patient. With the innovation of three-dimensional printing for dental use, an implant can be printed as a nearly exact replica of the tooth it will replace, helping to eliminate many of the problems previously associated with poorly fitted implants.
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