About 120 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. Some of the common causes of tooth loss include tooth decay, injury, and periodontal (gum) disease.
For many years, dentists have been using bridges and dentures as the solution to tooth loss. However, as technology has improved, dental implants have become the standard of care for missing teeth. They provide a strong foundation (or base) for temporary or permanent removable teeth, all while being the option that most acts and feels like natural teeth.
How Do the Implants Work?
A dental implant is a titanium fixture that’s surgically placed in the jawbone. This process is known as osseointegration. The fixture is an artificial tooth root that provides a strong foundation for bridges and replacement teeth. Titanium is the ideal material for implants, as it fuses easily with the jawbone without a person noticing it.
After the implant is placed, the dentist will then allow it to fuse with the bone for a period of time, which can take about two to six months. During the two to six months period, you’ll have a temporary tooth replacement option to be worn over the jawbone.
As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implants, anchoring them tightly in the bone. This means that implants are stable and able to stand alone, without affecting nearby teeth.
After the jawbone has healed, the dentist will attach a small connector post known as an abutment to the implants. The abutment is vital in securely holding the new replacement tooth.
Why are Dental Implants a Better Option?
Dental implants offer improved dental appearance and function most like natural teeth, as they are customized to fit your jaw.
Though dentures (removable teeth) are a viable option, traditional dentures can be prone to poor fitting. If the fit isn’t snug and stable, the denture can slip through the mouth, leading to mumbling or slurring of speech. Implants are stable, therefore, speech is not affected.
In addition to the potential of slurring speech, sliding dentures make chewing difficult for most people. Since implants are fitted and stable within your jaw, they also allow you to chew and eat normally.
Unlike tooth-supported bridges, dental implants don’t require altering nearby teeth in order to complete the procedure. Adjacent teeth are left unchanged, which means improved oral health for you.
Dental implants are also a convenient option in comparison to traditional dentures because you don’t have to remove them when you are ready to sleep or brush your teeth. They also do not require the use of any adhesive, which are a messy yet necessary product to hold dentures in place.
Improved comfort, appearance, and the implant’s durability are all benefits that many patients find with dental implants.
Are Dental Implants Right for You?
Before determining if dental implants are a good option for you, your dentist will provide a consultation and evaluation, which includes a review of your teeth, jaw, mouth, and your overall health.
Generally, most people are good candidates for the procedure. Good candidates have healthy gums and their jawbone is no longer growing.
It is important to have adequate bone to support the osseointegration process. However, even if you have low bones in your jaw, you may still be a good candidate for implants and the implant will actually help to prevent further bone loss.
If you have bone loss, but are otherwise a good candidate for dental implants, it might be necessary to rebuild the bone using grafting procedures.
For the best success, you will need to take care of your dental health, particularly the implanted teeth. Good brushing, flossing, and regular visits to the dentists will be necessary.
Who Might Not Be an Ideal Candidate?
Sometimes timing can affect when implants may be inappropriate to place. For example, young people with jawbones that are still growing might not be suitable for the procedure yet. In addition, dental implants are not typically performed on pregnant women.
A review of your health history and medications will be completed. People with chronic diseases, such as leukemia, diabetes, hemophilia, poor immune system, and connective-tissue diseases, may also be advised against getting implants. However, the severity of these conditions will determine whether or not implants are the best option for you. The use of some medications, such as those that suppress the immune system, will be discussed to determine if implants are the right choice.
People who have developed habits like severe teeth grinding or clenching may also not be good candidates. Such habits can put too much pressure on dental implants, increasing the risk of failure.
Smoking can hinder successful healing of the mouth. Therefore, people who are heavy smokers are at an increased risk for the dental implant failing and not typically considered a good candidate for dental implants.
Taking care of the implant and your general oral health, including regular dental visits, are important to the success of the implant. People who struggle with alcohol and/or substance abuse are typically not ideal candidates, as healthy habits and compliance to instructions are usually also a struggle.
The success of the implant for your health and investment is very important to you and your dental team. Thus, an honest conversation with your dentist about your health, medications, treatments, and lifestyle are necessary to be able to provide the best treatment for you.
Dental Implants are a wonderful solution and invaluable option for those patients who have missing teeth and looking to improve their smile, confidence, comfort, and function.
With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime, making them worth all the time and money you invested in yourself.
If you are interested in dental implants and learning if they are a good option for you, the first step is to schedule an appointment with a trusted dentist who will evaluate your dental health, jaws, and lifestyle.
If you have any questions, be sure to reach out to us to talk to our dental experts.