There was a time when the only solution for missing teeth was either some bridge work or dentures. These options certainly have their place, but there are a few drawbacks to them – at least in comparison to modern dental implants.
Implants are a common procedure these days, and we normally recommend them to replace missing teeth. Frankly, there are so many advantages to implants that it’s hard not to recommend them.
So what is it exactly, and what are the advantages?
A dental implant replaces both the tooth and the root. There are normally three parts to an implant. You have the titanium device that is inserted into the bone, the abutment (a sort of connector), and the crown. The crown – the part of the tooth that shows – can be made to closely match your natural tooth color, so no one will ever know that one of your teeth is actually a prosthetic.
There are several advantages to using implants, including
- Durability – These implants will last for a years, if not decades.
- Feeling – They feel just like any other tooth in your mouth.
- Appearance – The color will match the teeth around it.
- Usage – Your teeth function just like the always have. There’s not shifting of dentures while you eat or slurring of words while you speak.
- Oral Health – You don’t need to alter other teeth for an implant (like you do for a bridge). This leaves more of your teeth intact and makes it easier to keep them clean.
The new tooth is secured to the jawbone with a titanium “root.” We use titanium because of its biocompatibility – meaning that the body won’t reject the metal once it’s there. In fact, titanium will actually fuse with the existing bone through a process called osseointegration. It’s basically the same process that bones go through to reconnect to other bone. This leaves you with a new tooth that is very solidly in place.
Who Can Receive a Dental Implant?
Generally speaking, if you’re healthy enough to go through a routine dental extraction or oral surgery, then you’re probably a candidate for dental implants. You will need to have some healthy gums and enough bone to actually hold onto the implant. However, in order to accomplish that last criteria you may need to receive a bone graft first.
There are a couple conditions that may prohibit this process. Uncontrolled diabetes and cancer mean you may not be a good candidate. Also, if you are a heavy smoker or drinker, or have uncontrolled periodontal disease, it could change how the implants fuse to the bone.
It’s in the Bone
If you think you’re a candidate for an implant (you know, if you’ve lost a tooth for whatever reason) then don’t wait to get it checked out. Even if it’s a tooth that no one can see, you need to get it replaced because there’s more going on than just a hole in your smile. When teeth are lost, some of the bone that held those teeth is probably lost, too. By replacing them and reconstructing your smile, it will help stabilize the bone, support the facial skeleton, and maintain the jawbone’s shape and density.
The more bone is lost, the more functionality you can lose. It’s not just about aesthetics. If you lose too much, it can change the shape of your bite, make it harder to chew, eat, and even speak normally.
Most people report that there is less discomfort than expected when receiving the implant. The procedure can be done under local anesthesia, and after the implant is in, the soreness can usually be treated with over-the-counter pain medication.
Of course, this doesn’t all happen at once. When we implant the titanium root, it’s going to take some time for the bone to heal around it. This can take anywhere from six to 12 weeks, depending on your case. Once the bone has fused to the metal, the abutment and crown can be attached.
Maintaining Your New Smile
Modern dental implants are created with durable materials that do not decay and will never need a root canal. However, that doesn’t mean they don’t need the same level of care as the rest of your teeth. Oral hygiene is still important, and you should brush and floss to keep them clean. You will also need regular checkups to make sure they’re properly cleaned without damaging the metal underneath the gums.
Dental implants are a great way to return your natural smile and restore any lost teeth with a durable, natural-looking replacement.