Tooth loss is upsetting as most people gain quite a bit of self-esteem from having a complete set of teeth. If you know you will lose teeth soon or have recently had some extracted, then you might have already looked at your choices for replacing them. Most likely, you will have seen ads in newspapers or magazines or even on TV, offering the latest dental implant treatments. Some also promise to restore your smile in a single day!
Nowadays, dental implant treatments are heavily marketed and for a good reason. It is a great choice for replacing missing teeth and is by far the most long-term solution. However, you do need a good understanding about the options available for implant treatment, how they might help you, who is the best dentist to see for treatment, and who might not benefit from dental implants.
What Makes Dental Implants the Optimal Tooth Replacement?
One of the first things to discuss is why dental implants are a premium solution for tooth loss, and what makes them so different from more traditional forms of tooth replacement such as dentures or dental bridges. The answer lies in the way a dental implant forms a strong connection with your jawbone. The connection is slightly different to the way a natural tooth root is situated in the jawbone, but it performs the same job and acts as an artificial tooth root in a way that is unique.
It’s All about Your Jawbone!
Inevitably, when you lose teeth, then you will lose jawbone, but dental implants have the unique ability to stabilize this bone and to prevent further bone loss. Made from medical grade titanium alloy dental implants are bone-loving or osteophilic, which means they actually bond or integrate with the bone. Once a dental implant has fused with the jawbone, it prevents any movement of the implant post. Additionally, every time you bite or chew on a dental implant, the stresses are transmitted through the implant and into the bone, stimulating it in a way very similar to a real tooth root and preventing bone loss.
The bone surrounding your natural teeth is called alveolar bone, and it develops with your teeth as they push through your gums. Once you lose teeth, the alveolar bone disappears too because it is a relatively fragile type of bone. What’s worse, is that in some areas the alveolar bone is naturally thinner, particularly around your front teeth which can lead to it becoming resorbed more quickly after tooth loss. When you do lose natural bone like this, it can affect your appearance. Without it support, your lips and facial muscles can collapse inwards, creating a look that is really quite aging.
Bone loss is the reason why dentists always recommend replacing missing teeth as soon as you can, preferably soon after their loss. However, this isn’t always possible, and some people will have lost teeth years ago and will have already seen the effects of alveolar bone loss. The good news is that even if you have already lost some alveolar bone, then it can be restored before dental implant treatment using advanced bone grafting techniques. It is essential to replace missing bone because otherwise there wouldn’t be sufficient support for your dental implants. Once your implants are in your jawbone, then they can do the job they were designed for, which is to protect your jawbone and restore your smile!
Factors Affecting Dental Implant Success
The availability of good quality alveolar bone is critical for dental implant success, but it’s only one part of the equation. It is crucial to ensure your implants are inserted surgically into optimal positions so that your implant teeth not only look natural but will function correctly. Good implant placement also makes it easier to look after your dental implants properly. When dental implants are poorly inserted, then there is the risk they could harm vital structures in the jawbone and which include nerves, and it makes it much harder for an implant dentist and their dental lab to restore the implants correctly. Often it will be a compromise between appearance and functionality when really, these two factors should work harmoniously together.
Good Diagnostics are Crucial
When you see an experienced dental implant dentist, they will consider the position of your dental implants, using advanced diagnostic images from a cone beam CT scan. A cone-beam CT scan is vital for good implant placement because it provides amazingly detailed 3-D information about your jawbone and all the structures within it. Your implant dentist uses the information first to decide if you have adequate bone, or if a bone graft is needed before implant surgery. It also lets them assess the best location for each dental implant because the 3-D images are digitally manipulated, allowing your dentist to see how the implants will look once fully restored, ensuring you get a great aesthetic result and teeth that function correctly.
A Versatile Treatment That Works Well for Most People
Dental implants are very versatile, and this is a treatment that is suitable for most people. Treatment can be used to replace single or multiple teeth, or an entire mouth of teeth. Options include implant-supported crowns, bridges, and dentures. Your age shouldn’t be a barrier, so long as your teeth and jaws have finished growing. It is a treatment that has benefitted many older people well into their eighties and who previously spent years or decades struggling with loose dentures.
One of the most important factors in determining if treatment is right for you is your health. You must have reasonable general and dental health, and some diseases such as poorly controlled diabetes, or other medical conditions that affect your immune system could impact the outcome of treatment. If you smoke, then be prepared to quit, for the for the sake of your dental implants, not to mention your dental and general health.
Another factor is your attitude toward dental hygiene because your oral care routine must be excellent to ensure your implants remain strong and healthy for years to come. It isn’t tricky to care for your dental implants, but if you don’t, then they could become infected with a disease like gum disease, and which could lead to them failing. That would be a terrible shame because, as you’ll hopefully discover, they really are the optimal way to replace missing teeth.