Osseointegration – Its Role In Dental Implant Placement

Without this natural process, dental implants would not be the success story that they are.

Diagram of a dental implantBy now, most of you who read our blogs regularly will be aware of dental implants and why they offer benefits that other tooth replacement options can’t match. Implant placement is a field of dentistry which is growing in popularity with our Canterbury patients, and with good reason.

Although the initial part of the process is quite sophisticated and requires minor surgical treatment; once they have become established, and with good care, teeth implants both feel and act like a natural tooth and can last for twenty years or more.

The quality of the implants used and the skill of the dentist is, of course, very important, as is the aftercare they receive. One of the most important parts of the process though is something that occurs naturally and that is the process of osseointegration.

What is osseointegration?

This is a term that patients of Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic probably won’t hear too much from our team, but it is key to a successful implant placement. It is the process of the artificial implant fusing or bonding with the bone in the part of the jaw where it has been placed. It is not only used in implant placement but in more general medical situations generally. For example, it has been used in the provision of artificial limbs as a method of securely attaching these to the patient in order to provide additional stability. This should give you an idea of the strength that this process provides to an artificial tooth.

Osseointegration is described on Wikipedia as a ‘direct structural and functional connection between living bone and the surface of a load-bearing artificial implant’. All that this means is that the implant is placed directly into the bone which then ‘accepts’ and ‘integrates’ the implant as part of its own structure. It does this by gradually building and fusing bone around the implant until it has, in effect, become one with it. This provides an extremely strong bond and much more than, for example, simply screwing the implant into the bone would do. Once fused, and with good care, there is no reason that the implant should be able to become loose.

Is this a recent discovery?

Although teeth implants have only recently started to be acknowledged as a relatively standard way of replacing missing teeth in the last few years, the discovery of the osseointegration process goes right back to the 1940’s when it was observed in research that titanium fused with bone when placed in it. It was first used in dentistry in 1952 when Swedish scientist, Per-Ingvar Brånemark, used titanium in a rabbit bone in a part of an experiment. When he tried to remove the titanium rods for re-use, he found that they were securely bonded together. This discovery led to further research and experimentation until, in 1965, he placed the first dental implant into a human patient. For those who might question the longevity of implants, you might be interested to know that this patient lived until 2005, 40 years later, with the dental implants still in place.

Do all dental implants undergo this process?

Ultimately, the answer is yes. It will happen naturally once the implant has been placed but it is important that it is allowed to do so with minimal interference. This is slightly different when a single implant is placed to, for example, a ‘same day teeth implants’ procedure.  In the case of the latter, although the process will still occur, the nature of the procedure and the special implants placed at the rear lend themselves to almost instant stability and patients can eat relatively normally quite soon following the procedure. Where individual implants are placed, this is not quite the same case.

Individual implant placement must be allowed approximately 3 months for the bone and implant to fuse. This means that the patient will need to be careful not to put stress on the implant during this initial period as this could slow down the process or even cause the implant to fail altogether. We generally recommend that the patient follows a semi-liquid food diet in the immediate period following placement. As the osseointegration process starts to take effect, this can then be advanced to foods such as mashed potatoes and soft pasta but definitely avoiding hard foods. Once the 3 months (approx) is over, the patient should have a dental implant that matches or even surpasses the strength of their own natural teeth.

We appreciate that this 3 month wait can feel inconvenient for patients but it is a small price to pay for 20 or potentially more years of having a strong, stable and natural looking replacement tooth.

If you would like to know more about the osseointegration process or about implants in general, we are always happy to help our Canterbury patients to improve their smile experience. If you would like to make an appointment for an initial implant consultation, please call Bradley and Partners Dental and Implant Clinic on 01227 463529.