By Dr. Joseph D. Lim
MRS. Manolita S. Silvestre, a businesswoman from Alabang, has a lot to smile about nowadays. Her speech has improved, she looks a lot better than before, and her confidence is up by a hundred percent, “I’m having a good time. I’m not ashamed to face people anymore and my self-esteem is high,” she said. Her secret? Dental implants—artificial teeth that are surgically implanted in the jawbone with the use of tiny screws. This device has helped over two million toothless people worldwide.
The availability of dental implants in the country has improved the quality of life of many Filipinos since they provide a better and more aesthetically pleasing alternative to dentures. Silvestre is one of the many Filipinos who has benefited from dental implants. Her success story has inspired other people to try out this new technology. Prior to her discovery of dental implants, Silvestre had been wearing dentures for years when she decided one day that they were not for her. “I’ve seen people who have lost their teeth and developed facial deformities because of ill-fitting dentures. I couldn’t accept that. I couldn’t imagine myself with an elongated face so I believed dental implants were the answer to my problem, I had read about them in some American journals when a friend of mine said they were being done here,” she recalled.
Although the technology is new, dental implants were used thousands of years ago by the ancient Egyptians. The technique was refined in the 1950s by Swedish orthopedist Dr. Per-Ingvar Branemark. While working in his lab, Branemark observed that titanium could integrate with living bone tissue – a process called Osseo integration. His discovery led to the development of modern dental implants which are widely used today.
Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth or an entire set of teeth. In the surgical phase, the jawbone is drilled to accommodate the implant. After a few months or sufficient time for the bone cells to grow around the implant and hold it in place, a small metal post or abutment is attached to the implant to serve as an anchor for new teeth. The final stage involves creating new teeth or a prosthesis which is attached to the abutment.
What happened during the operation and how did it change Silvestre’s life? Find out in the second part of this series on Friday. Don’t miss it!
Dr. Joseph D. Lim is the Dean of the College of Dentistry, National University, President/CEO of Dr. Smile Dental Care & Laser Center and honorary fellow of the Asian Oral Implant Academy and the Japan College of Oral Implantologists. For questions on dental health, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or text 0917-8591515.