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Maxillary implants are dental implants fitted into the upper jaw, also known as the maxilla. Implants are used to support certain types of dental appliances and are installed by a dental specialist. Once the implants settle, the attached dental appliance can be fitted. If implants are an option for a dental treatment, this will be discussed with the patient and the patient can be provided with information about risks and benefits of dental implants, based on the specifics of the case.
With maxillary implants, devices are rooted in the bone and they cannot be dislodged. In cases where the maxilla has been damaged, grafting may be necessary, with the implant being installed and bone grafts placed around it to promote the growth of new bone. The implant has a roughened surface, encouraging bone to grow into and around the base to secure it firmly. After the procedure to place a maxillary implant, X-rays are periodically taken to see how well the patient's jaw is tolerating it before adding a dental appliance.
Sometimes, maxillary implants reject. The reasons for implant rejection are not well understood, as implants are made from standardized materials designed to resist rejection. Infections, inflammation, and other problems associated with poor wound care can cause rejection, but sometimes the implants reject with no warning. Bone fails to fuse with the implant, and it can be easily moved in the jaw. The procedure needs to be repeated or the patient should consider other treatment options.
A single replacement tooth can be attached to an implant, or a dentist can fabricate a group of teeth spanning multiple implants. The teeth are carefully designed so they match existing teeth, if the patient has any, and to address concerns about abrasions to the gums and lips caused by poorly fitting dental appliances. Once the teeth are in place, the patient should be able to eat and drink relatively normally.
If maxillary implants are not considered, the patient may use a bridge, where an artificial tooth is placed and anchored to existing teeth, or dentures, a complete or partial set of replacement teeth. These will require careful maintenance for life, and because they are not fixed in place with maxillary implants, the patient usually needs to eat a special diet to avoid damaging or losing the teeth. The disadvantages of dentures and bridges lead many dentists to recommend implants when they appear to be a viable option for a patient's needs.