Why Replacing Lost Teeth Is Important: The Implant Difference

dental X-ray

Healthy teeth let you show off your smile, but when one or more teeth are missing, it can affect your dental health as well as your appearance. If spaces are left in the mouth after tooth loss, problems such as weakening of the jawbone may arise. When the jawbone is not supporting a tooth, it deteriorates.

Many middle-aged adults (45-65) in the U.S. have lost at least one tooth through decay, gum disease or injury. Instances of just a single lost tooth or a few missing teeth may be regarded by some as no big deal, but even the loss of a single back tooth can bend your mouth out of shape and make you appear older.

Replacing lost teeth can also be important to restore an individual’s self-confidence if a visible gap has been left, causing embarrassment.

Problems Caused by Missing Teeth

Each tooth plays a part in helping you to eat and speak properly. The loss of one or more teeth can shift bite pressure onto other teeth, causing them to move into the space left by the missing tooth. Missing teeth also enable plaque to build up in places that are difficult to clean, leading to gum infections that can result in the loss of even more teeth.

Another issue with failing to replace a lost tooth is that the bone structure that supported it can begin to waste away. Bone, like muscle tissue, atrophies when not exercised or stimulated.

Conventional artificial teeth such as bridges and dentures don’t provide an effective solution to this problem, because they don’t replace the tooth roots. This is why many patients opt for dental implants to replace missing teeth, or as a support for a dental plate.

Implants provide a secure foundation for permanent or removable artificial teeth. They can be used as a support for a dental plate or instead of bridges and dentures. Implants help to maintain the strength of the jawbone by replacing the entire missing tooth structure, including the root.

How Dental Implants Work

Dental implants are surgically inserted in the upper or lower jaw as an anchor for artificial teeth. They consist of posts made from titanium; a strong but lightweight metal now widely used for prosthetics because of its compatibility with the human body.

The titanium post is fixed into the bone socket of a missing tooth, and the jawbone grows back around the implant, holding it securely in the jaw. When the implant and bone have bonded, an abutment is fitted to hold the artificial tooth securely, and a crown is then attached to the abutment.

The implant is locked in place as bone fuses to it. This means that patients must have adequate bone structure to support the implant or undergo a graft. Because the fixing of implants is a surgical procedure, patients need to be in good general health. Chronic conditions such as diabetes may slow healing after surgery.

In some cases, the healing process can take several months before replacement teeth can be attached, after the bone has grown around the implant to secure it in place. Other patients may be able to get implants and artificial teeth in one visit.

Replacement teeth are customized for the patient in the form of a bridge, dentures, or crowns, which are attached to the implant posts. Prosthetic teeth can take some time to make, and your dentist may give you temporary fittings so you can speak and eat as usual until the permanent replacement teeth are ready.

For less complex implant surgery, a local anesthetic is probably all that’s necessary. More intricate cases may entail general anesthesia or conscious sedation with a local anesthetic.

Advantages of Implants

Implants have several advantages over bridges and removable dentures, including:

  • High success rate. Implants have a success rate of up to 98 per cent. While bridges and dental plates can cause bone weakening, implants are unique in dentistry in promoting bone growth, and they boast a track record of reliable, long-term effectiveness compared with bridges and dental plates.
  • Permanent solution. Implants become part of your jaw, unlike bridges and removable dentures, which may have to be replaced with time.
  • Bite improvement. Unlike the bite function of traditional dentures, the bite power of implant-retained dentures is as strong as that of natural teeth.
  • Natural appearance. Implants blend in seamlessly with adjacent teeth and feel like natural teeth.
  • Convenience. While many people find dentures bothersome, looking after implant teeth is just the same as taking care of natural teeth.
  • Healthier natural teeth. Implants don’t need modifications to adjacent teeth, and they help to prevent surrounding teeth from moving out of place.

On the downside, implants are not suitable for everyone, because they require surgery. Implants may also require more visits to the dentist than other options, and they may cost more.

How Implants Can Transform Your Life

If you’re missing one or more teeth, implants can transform your life in terms of both functionality and aesthetics.

Implants can restore your smile and confidence, and allow you to eat your favorite foods again, while maintaining the structural integrity of your jaw and giving you a bite power much stronger than conventional dentures. Implants also look and feel just like your original teeth, provide stability for your surrounding natural teeth, and can last for decades if you take care of them properly.

Why You Need a Dental Implant Surgeon

Because the insertion of dental implants is a surgical procedure, it makes sense to find a dental surgeon to carry out your procedure, rather than a general dentist who just happens to do some implant work. Look for a dental implant specialist who’s recognized by the American Dental Association (ADA) as a maxillofacial (jaw and face) or oral surgeon or as periodontist.

The Journal of the American Dental Association (JADA) reported that almost 19 percent of implants placed in 2014 by general dentists failed. ¬ The overall high success rate of implants is largely because most procedures are performed by skilled surgical specialists with a wealth of experience.

At Sanford Dental Excellence, we are dental implant specialists – contact us today for a consultation to see if dental implants are the right choice for you to replace missing teeth and create your ideal smile. We’re accepting new patients and would love to provide you with the dental care and expertise you deserve.

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