There many excellent procedures available to replace a missing tooth or missing teeth, but dental implants are definitely the best option. No other tooth-replacement choice will last as long, and dental implants also preserve the bone that supports our teeth. This bone deteriorates naturally when a tooth is lost and this is one of the biggest consequences of losing a tooth.
Generally, a dental implant is a screw-shaped titanium post that will replace the root portion of a missing tooth. While this is a surgical procedure, the vast majority of patients need only local anesthesia and the procedure is considered routine and minor surgery. After the implant is in place and the area has healed, a custom-made crown will cover the titanium and look just like a natural tooth. More than 95% of all dental implant procedures are successful which is far higher than any other method of tooth replacement.
The dental implant will be inserted directly into your jawbone in the space where your missing tooth once resided. Again, this is a minor surgical procedure that typically only requires a local anesthetic. After the implant is in place, the area will need to heal for several months before your dentist adds the final crown. During this healing process, your implant actually will fuse to the bone that surrounds it.
Dental Implant Options
There are actually several different ways in which implants can replace your missing teeth, including the following:
Replacing One Missing Tooth –
With just one missing tooth, a single implant is all that is needed. The implant is inserted into the jawbone to replace the root of the missing tooth and later, a permanent crown will be added to create the appearance of a natural tooth. While the procedure can be expensive, the success rate of implants is far higher than any other replacement method. So while your initial cost is greater, over time, this is the most cost-effective solution. This implant will never decay, will never need root canal therapy and will feel just like a natural tooth.
Replacing Several Teeth –
If you have two or more missing teeth, implants are a perfect replacement option. You also won’t need an implant in place of each missing tooth. Instead two implanted teeth can become the support for fixed bridgework. For instance, if a person has three missing teeth, two implants will be inserted and the gap in the middle will be left alone. This gap will be covered when a three-unit bridge is put into place. This is an excellent option because the implants will act as the bridge support rather than shaping and filing down other teeth to support the bridge.
Replacing All Teeth Permanently –
While dentures have long been the standard for patients who have lost all of their teeth, implants can be a better option. Not only will the implants protect your precious jawbone, they don’t slip like dentures and they usually last throughout your lifetime. For patients with sufficient bone structure, four implants might be enough to support an arch of upper or lower teeth. For those with less bone volume, five or six implants might be needed.
Support For Removable Dentures –
If you do have removable dentures, implants can be put into place to make these devices more comfortable and healthier. Traditional-style dentures rest directly on the gums and this applies pressure to the underlying bone. Overtime, bone will be lost and the jaw shrinks. This causes dentures to slip and makes them uncomfortable. Removable dentures can be attached to implants which takes the pressure off the jaw bone. Not only does it preserve the bone, it prevents slippage and makes removable dentures more comfortable in general.
Proper Implant Care
Implants are strong and they are meant to last a lifetime; however, there are two ways in which the implants can be damaged and dislodged from the jaw bone. Patients with poor oral hygiene risk contracting a serious bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Fortunately, this is easy to prevent. Proper brushing and flossing, as well as regularly scheduled dental cleanings will prevent the infection.
Teeth grinding or clenching is another problem that can cause implants to become damaged. This is especially true if you did not receive a proper number of implants to handle the pressure. It is important that you have enough implants in place to support your teeth and that you use a nightguard to limit damage. After all, dental implants are expensive and you definitely want to protect your investment. Proper care is the best way to keep your implants and your smile in perfect condition.