By Michael W. Herndon DDS.
Dental implants have been all the rage in dentistry for the last few decades and for good reason. They are the treatment of choice for replacement of missing teeth and according to a friend who’s an experienced dental implant provider in Salt Lake City, when provided by experienced and trained dentists have a success rate approaching 99%!! There are few treatments in surgical medicine that have such a high rate of success. But they are implants, not teeth, and thus do not react in your mouth exactly as teeth do.
For example, the sense of pressure to biting is called proprioception and it is there because of the periodontal ligament, the tissue surrounding the root of the tooth in the socket. As one bites down the tooth is compressed in the socket and nerves in the periodontal ligament tells us how hard we are biting. Dental implants are stuck to the bone (what keeps them in!), have no ligament around them and therefore no proprioception. Implants function well without this sensation but not exactly as teeth.
Certainly, according to the Drescher & Cohen dentists in Atlanta that I spoke to, there are times when the condition of a tooth absolutely requires extraction or when the expense of saving a tooth exceeds the cost of an implant along with a questionable long-term quality of investment, when it is best to eliminate the tooth and place an implant instead. Yet there are those that believe that many teeth are extracted that could be saved and this might be the best option.
I have been placing and restoring dental implants for over 30 years, have witnessed the evolution of dental implants and use then often for the benefit of patients. Implants are a wonderful and remarkable solution for the replacement of teeth but this decision to extract a tooth and place an implant needs to be considered carefully. After all, your teeth are your ivory! Take good care of them!