Whether you are missing a single tooth or all your teeth, replacement is crucial not only to protect your dental health but your overall health. Just one missing tooth makes you more prone to tooth decay and gum disease, which has been connected to many health complications. Your remaining teeth can shift, and malnutrition is much more common among people with missing and misaligned teeth. Missing teeth can be a speech impediment, change your chewing mechanics, and even alter your facial structure, and all of these symptoms can diminish self-confidence.
Dental implants are the leading treatment for missing teeth when a person is a suitable candidate. The process involves surgically inserting a titanium post into the jawbone. That post serves as the base for a composite crown that functions and looks just as a natural tooth does. With proper care, a dental implant can last a lifetime, so while it may be more expensive than the alternatives up front, it often proves to be the more cost-effective treatment option over the long run.
The Modern Dental Implant
The first titanium dental implant was performed in 1965, but the prosthetics and procedures have come a long way over the decades and in particular in recent years. Computers and other advanced technologies have given rise to one of the most sophisticated treatments in dental history. The success rate, according to WebMD, is now 98 percent. The process is virtually painless, and the modern crown is virtually indistinguishable from a real tooth both in terms of function and aesthetics.
Let us consider the many benefits:
- The Most Sophisticated Option – Dental implants have transformed modern dentistry, and most dentists agree that they are the best option to replace missing teeth. Modern dental labs—including in-office labs—can create a perfect replica. That means that there are no gaps, and there is no risk of overcrowding, which can occur with partial dentures and dental bridges. Bridges can also damage the surrounding teeth because the prosthetic relies on them for support, whereas the dental implant is supported by the titanium post.
- A Procedure That Results in Little to No Pain – Having a titanium post inserted into your jawbone may sound quite painful, but the majority of patients report experiencing little to no pain or even any discomfort at all. The modern procedure is highly precise, which minimizes discomfort and is the reason the modern success rate is so high. Each case is unique, so your experience may differ, but in most cases, the patient can return to work the next day and often with no medication or just an over-the-counter pain reliever.
- Improved Physical and Mental Well-Being – Missing teeth can have a big effect on a person’s life, and dentures and other alternatives do not overcome them all. With an implant, there is no need to alter your lifestyle, including your diet and the social activities you enjoy. With missing teeth and even dentures, you have to avoid certain foods, and many people experience social anxieties, a great deal of stress, and reduced self-confidence.
- Implants Can’t Get Cavities – Dental implants are incredibly resilient due to the composite materials from which they are made. An implant cannot, for instance, get cavities. However, that does not mean you can skimp on oral hygiene. Even if all your teeth are implants, your gums still require proper care. In addition, dental implants can stain, so brushing and flossing help in this regard as well. The crown itself can be replaced as needed, which will be 15 years or more with good care, but the implant itself will last forever.
- Strengthening of the Jawbone – Some people fear that an implant will undermine their jawbone, but this is actually a misguided concern. Your natural teeth attach to your jawbone via roots. The implant mimics that root and undergoes osseointegration, which means that the implant fuses with the jawbone. This osseointegration actually strengthens a jaw. Without the stimulation provided by those roots—whether natural or artificial—bone atrophy would occur, and the jawbone would weaken and even begin to disintegrate.
- Protecting Your Natural Teeth – When you are missing a tooth or teeth and opt for a dental bridge, that prosthetic must be supported by your remaining teeth and so puts a strain on them. That strain does add up over time and can cause those supporting teeth to shift, which can lead to a host of other dental problems. Since implants are supported by the jawbone, they allow for a perfect fit that does not disturb the other teeth.
While dental implants are the most sophisticated and long-lasting treatment for missing teeth, they are not appropriate for everyone. Here are the factors your dentist will consider:
- Gum Health – A dental implant is as closely connected to your gums as the natural tooth was. Therefore, it is important that the patient’s gums be in good health. If the patient has reversible gum disease, then that will need to be treated before moving on to the implants. If a patient has advanced gum disease, it can rule them out as a candidate. Many people with periodontitis can get dental implants once the disease is under control, but they have to take great care to keep it under control less it undermines the implant.
- Bone Density – Just as with gum mass, there needs to be adequate bone available. After all, the implant needs to be supported by the jawbone. A bone graft is one possible solution to inadequate bone density.
- Positive Oral Health – Generally, the patient’s mouth must be otherwise healthy before they can have an implant installed. Your dentist will want to treat any other dental health issues before proceeding with the implants.
- Patience – Ideal candidates have to be willing and able to be patient. How patient? That depends. Each procedure is unique. In some cases, it can take as long as six months for the surgical wound to heal. Most procedures take at least four months to complete and can take as long as a year. If a gum graft or bone graft is required, this schedule is extended because you have to wait for the graft to heal fully.
- Other Factors – Smoking and other tobacco use is a factor because it can disrupt the post from attaching to the jawbone properly. It can also inhibit the healing of the surgical wound. A smoker has to be willing to cease smoking throughout the entire process. In addition, if a person has any disease or condition that affects their ability to heal, that may make them unsuitable, and anyone who has taken bisphosphonate medications as treatment for oral cancer is usually not a good candidate for dental implants.
Are You a Candidate?
You can probably tell from the above whether you likely are or are not a candidate for dental implants. But it is important that you consult with a dentist. Each case is unique. Your dentist will perform a comprehensive evaluation, and if there are any issues affecting your candidacy, he or she can discuss with you your options for overcoming them and eventually getting your implants.
Replace Your Missing Teeth and Enjoy a Beautiful Smile
Missing teeth can disrupt your lifestyle as well as compromise your oral health and, eventually, your overall health. Jeffrey D. Clark, DDS, is among the leading cosmetic and restorative dentists in Arizona, and he works with Dr. Joe Mehranfar to achieve high-caliber dental implants. Dr. Mehranfar is among the most respected names in dental implantology. Schedule your consultation with Dr. Clark today by calling Scottsdale Dental Excellence at 480 585 1853.