Tooth loss is quite common. While this is expected among seniors, you may be surprised to find that younger people, too, lose their permanent teeth. This is due to various reasons, especially poor oral hygiene. As a matter of fact, adults between ages 20 and 64 have an average of 24 remaining teeth. This is according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) which reported that periodontitis or gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss.
Nevertheless, there is a growing need for tooth replacement. This is because people are more aware of their appearance and smile and the importance of having all their teeth. More importantly, they want new teeth that are the closest possible alternative to their natural teeth. They want dental implants.
What are Dental Implants?
Despite its many advancements, dental implants are not a “new” invention, as stated by Val Daniyar, a dental implant expert from Naples, FL. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots, also called posts, that are inserted into the gum (subperiosteal procedure) or jawbone (endosteal procedure). Each tooth root resembles a titanium screw and functions as a base for a replacement tooth or dental crown. They also mimic the functions of the original root. The surgical placement of the implant is usually performed under anesthetic.
The entire process can take about 6-10 months from the time of implanting the tooth root to mounting the crown. If you need to grow jawbone prior to placing the metal post, this will lengthen the process. However, one advantage is more stability for the new tooth root.
Dental Implants vs Dental Bridges and Dentures
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), dental implants are becoming increasingly popular and are, by far, a higher quality tooth replacement option. They are fitted permanently into the gum or jawbone and can only be removed through surgery. On the other hand, dentures and dental bridges are removable and can slip out of place on their own. They also need to be replaced every 5-10 years.
Implants and crowns are made using advanced technology and are designed to last a lifetime. They can be cared for like natural teeth and do not decay. There’s also no need to shave down adjacent teeth to fit the new crown. Plus, the artificial tooth root stimulates jawbone growth. This helps to enhance the stability of the other teeth and prevent further tooth loss due to bone erosion from missing or diseased teeth.
Are Dental Implants Right for Me?
Dental implants provide a wide range of benefits apart from restoring missing or damaged teeth and improving your smile. But they may not be right for everyone. You may be a good candidate for dental implants if your jawbone is completely developed and the following other main criteria apply to you.
You have one or more missing or damaged teeth
Loose, diseased, or missing teeth can have a negative impact on your oral and general health. For example, bacterial infection from gum disease is linked to heart disease. You also depend on your front teeth, e.g., the incisors to tear foods and back teeth, e.g., the molars to chew and grind food. These teeth also provide facial fullness and symmetry. Without them, you’ll likely have problems chewing and swallowing and even issues with digestion. Implants restore teeth functions, improve oral health, and enhance your appearance.
You’re looking for permanent tooth replacement
Dentures and bridges are a no, no for many people who’ve heard of the range of benefits implants offer. Besides, they are not the right option if you’re looking for permanent tooth restoration. Even if you already have dentures and bridges, you can easily upgrade to implants. The tooth root is fused to the bone and provides the same type of stability for the crown like the natural tooth roots. And you won’t have to worry about them slipping out of place or falling out while you’re speaking, smiling, or eating.
You want natural-looking teeth that match your other teeth
Dental implants are designed to function similar to your natural teeth. But, a major concern of people planning to get them is whether the replacement tooth will match their natural teeth. Porcelain and ceramic dental crowns offer the most natural-looking finish. They are designed to match the natural tooth enamel, are durable, customizable, and can be cared for with regular brushing and flossing. And the best part is probably the fact that no one can easily tell your new teeth are actually implants.
You want to enhance your smile
So, you’re tired of turning away or covering your mouth when you talk, laugh, or smile. You do this to avoid the embarrassment you feel when others see your missing or damaged teeth. Well, that’s enough reasons to want all your teeth back! Implants make it possible to get back your charming smile plus they restore bite functions. Your new teeth may even boost your self-confidence. You’ll look and feel great!
You have good oral health
You must have healthy teeth and gums, and enough jawbone height, to get permanent replacement teeth. Your dentist will need to treat any gum infection, gum disease, and cavities if necessary prior to fixing the implant. Decayed teeth that cannot be saved will be extracted. If you don’t have enough jawbone height, that’s okay. You can choose to undergo bone grafting or just opt for the subperiosteal implant which is inserted into the gum instead of the bone.
You’re patient enough to go through the process
The process of getting implants can take several months even close to 1 year. The average time is 4-9 months. But the timeline depends heavily on several factors including which teeth are being replaced and the need to treat oral diseases, extract teeth, or grow jawbone. Patients who make good candidates for this procedure are usually those willing to go through the necessary stage by stage process. Your patience will pay off in the end when you see your brand new, natural-looking teeth!
Who Should Not Get Dental Implants
Individuals who have chronic medical conditions or certain lifestyle habits that could interfere with healing during the implant process may be excluded from undergoing this procedure. They include those who:
- Are diabetic
- Smoke tobacco
- Have leukemia
- Have advanced periodontitis
- Take certain medications, e.g., bisphosphonates
Talk to your implant dentist today to know if you qualify
The best way to know for sure if implants are right for you is to talk with your dentist or implant specialist. He or she will do a comprehensive oral evaluation and perform diagnostic tests to help determine your best option.