Dental implants represent one of the most significant advances in modern dentistry. In the past, the only options available to those with missing teeth were dentures or bridges, each of which carry significant problems of their own. In contrast, dental implants provide an aesthetically pleasing and downright comfortable solution for those missing teeth due to injury or tooth decay. But what are they and how to they work? To answer that question, here are some ways dental implants can repair your smile.
1. The Good Stuff
Dental implants have the appearance and feel of normal teeth, lending an extra boost of self-confidence. Those accustomed to hiding their smile due to a large gap caused by a missing tooth, or because of teeth riddled with decay will feel comfortable smiling with dental implants. However, the advantages are not merely cosmetic.
Dental implants make eating and speaking much easier than dentures or bridges. This is because the dental implant procedure involves a titanium post that is secured into the jaw and holds the tooth in place much like a natural root. This means that unlike dentures, implants won’t loosen, allowing the patient to eat and chew their food as they would with a full set of teeth. Beyond that, dental implants offer significant oral health benefits, prevent bone resorption, and are much easier to clean than bridges (which are notoriously difficult due to their placement atop other teeth).
2. Prevention of Bone Loss
In addition to replacing missing or decaying teeth, dental implants also prevent the loss of jawbone tissue while guarding against further bone loss. As mentioned earlier, this is because dental implants replicate the functionality of a tooth root.
3. Success Rates
Not surprisingly, dental implants have greater longevity than bridges or dentures. And the technology is only continuing to improve. However, keep in mind that the best candidates for dental implants are those in good health. For the procedure to work as intended, it is crucial that the jawbone be able to grow around the implant. This process is called osseointegration. After it is successfully installed, the implant will function like a normal tooth, providing adequate stimulation to the jawbone and exhibiting typical regeneration.
4. Proper Care
In order for an implant to be successful, the patient must have good oral health habits. This means brushing and flossing teeth twice per day with a mechanical or interdental toothbrush capable of traversing between teeth with ease. It also means visiting the dentist on a regular basis, or every six months. This way they can make sure the implant remains in good condition for years to come. Proper care also means no chewing on hard foods. So say goodbye to the days of hard candy and ice, each of which can cause significant damage to both crowns and normal teeth.
5. I Don’t Have Enough Bone, Can I Still Get an Implant?
As mentioned above, the dental implant procedure requires a significant amount of jawbone in order to be successful. Unfortunately, those who have had untreated tooth loss or problems with their dentures are likely already experiencing degeneration of the jawbone. While not ideal, this does not stop those with jawbone loss from receiving implants. In fact, implants can still be installed after a bone graft or sinus lift, depending on where the bone has grown soft. A bone graft is required when the jawbone is too thin, while a sinus lift is required when the bone in the upper jaw or sinuses is too close to the jaw itself.
6. Prepare for the Cost
Unfortunately more and more insurance companies refuse to cover the costs of a dental implant, rendering the overall cost of the procedure much more expensive. How expensive? Implants can cost anywhere between $1000 and $2000 per tooth, and that doesn’t include the cost of the crown. However, don’t let cost be a deterrent. Few things are as socially and functionally important as a healthy smile, and there are still plenty of options in terms of financial assistance.
Those with unanswered questions about implants should consult their dentist prior to making any commitments to the procedure. That way any potential problems can be identified and dealt with prior to the installation.
In case you didn’t know, our mouths are full of bacteria, and at times it can get out of control. Often, we can keep it in check with a daily regimen of brushing, flossing, and rinsing with mouthwash, paired with regular dental visits. If bacteria start to build up on teeth or under the gum line, however, infection can spread, leading to issues like cavities, gum disease, and in severe cases, infected pulp inside the tooth that requires a root canal.
A root canal treatment is a procedure by which a dentist drills into your tooth to reach the pulp, removes the soft tissue and sanitizes the canals, and finally, fills and seals the tooth to protect against further infection. Dentists work hard to ensure that patients feel no discomfort during the procedure, and the treatment could help to save an infected tooth, which can survive even without pulp.
Of course, you first need a diagnosis that your pulp is infected, and this requires a visit to the dentist. How do you know if you need to see your dentist outside of your regular schedule of cleanings? How can you tell if something is wrong? Here are just a few common signs that you might need a root canal treatment.
The pulp of your tooth is soft tissue under the hard, outer layers of dentin and enamel. Pulp contains blood vessels, connective tissue, and nerves, and when it becomes infected, eventually it’s going to cause you pain.
Many patients will start to notice sensitivity first, but they might not think much of it. As we age, it’s natural to develop some sensitivity to cold or hot liquids, or when biting down on hard foods, for example. This is because enamel can weaken over time. However, infection is something different. If you notice sensitivity localized to one tooth, there’s a good chance you have some form of infection, either from a cavity or infected pulp.
If this condition goes untreated, you will probably start to feel more severe pain. This could be an ongoing ache, shooting pains when you bite down on the tooth, or both. As the infection advances, you might start to feel pain around the gum line and even the jaw where the tooth sits. Any time you experience unusual tooth pain, it’s best to contact your dentist to schedule an examination.
An infected tooth will impact surrounding tissues, namely the gum tissue in direct contact with the tooth. If you notice that gum tissue surrounding a particular tooth becomes red, swollen, and tender, it could be a sign that you’re in need of a root canal, whether you’ve started to notice sensitivity or pain in the tooth or not. It could also be a sign of gum disease, in which case you also need to see your dentist, but gum disease more often affects a large swath of gum tissue, rather than centering on a specific tooth.
3. Gum abscesses
Infection in the mouth will spread, often to the nearest tissue first. Swollen, tender gums are a side effect of the infection in your tooth, and there will be further problems if you
don’t seek treatment. As the infection progresses, you might start to notice painful, pimple-like spots on the affected gum tissue. These abscesses are filled with fluid and they may leak pus that smells and tastes bad.
Naturally, the appearance of such abscesses should be cause for concern at any time. When paired with other symptoms of infected pulp, such as sensitivity and pain in one tooth, you should definitely seek professional help and undergo a root canal and related treatment (like a course of antibiotics) if necessary.
4. Tooth discoloration
It’s true that tooth discoloration could be related to a number of factors. Drinking beverages like coffee or soda, smoking, and taking certain medications (like tetracycline) could all cause teeth to become discolored. Of course, the chances that these factors will affect only a single tooth are pretty slim.
However, when the pulp of the tooth becomes infected and eventually starts to die, it could cause surrounding dentin to begin decomposing, as well. This portion of the tooth will begin to visibly darken, causing your tooth to become discolored.
When this happens, your tooth is likely in pretty bad shape, and if you take no action, you risk losing the tooth. Whether you’re experiencing unusual sensitivity or tooth pain, swelling and tenderness of the gums, gum abscesses, tooth discoloration, or other symptoms of infected pulp, you need to see your dentist immediately for diagnosis and treatment.
Whether you’ve lost one tooth, several, or all of your teeth, you’ll find that there are a few options to explore when it comes to replacing them with false teeth, and it is important that you replace missing teeth, even if the gap isn’t necessarily visible.
Missing teeth can affect your whole mouth in a variety of ways you may not consider. Not only could the teeth on either side of the gap start to lean in, leading to misalignment of your smile and your bite, but the jaw could shrink with no tooth to support and if you’re missing a significant number of teeth, the skin of your cheeks or lips could begin to cave inward, creating a hollowed appearance.
What can you do to prevent these undesirable outcomes? A bridge that affixes a floating false tooth or teeth to surrounding natural teeth is one option, but this still leaves your jaw bone with no surrogate “root” to support. Then there are partial or full dentures, removable plates that simulate missing teeth, and these could create a host of issues, from irritating gums to becoming dislodged at embarrassing moments.
When you opt for single-tooth dental implants instead, you’ll not only get the functional and attractive tooth replacement you need to smile and eat as you did before, but you’ll gain a host of additional benefits in the process. Here are some of the many advantages of choosing single-tooth dental implants over other options for tooth replacement.
An attractive smile is something that everyone notices and comments on, so when you lose teeth, it’s only natural that confidence in your smile, and your appearance in general, would suffer as a result. It’s true that any type of tooth replacement can help you here, but single-tooth dental implants are superior.
First, your dental implants will never slip out of place accidentally. The crown, or false tooth, is anchored to the jaw by a titanium screw. Dentures, which are only held in place with a temporary fixative product, could accidentally come loose when you’re laughing, eating, or drinking, leading to an embarrassing situation. This will never happen with dental implants.
A dental implant not only looks the most like a natural tooth, but it also offers the closest approximation of function. It is designed to fit perfectly in the gap where your natural tooth once was, so as to preserve your natural alignment and bite pattern. This is how bridges and dentures work, as well. However, single-tooth dental implants are affixed to the jaw, rather than wired to neighboring teeth or held in place with denture fixative.
This means that you can eat, drink, brush, and floss just as you normally would. Dentures limit what you can eat and drink, and even if you’re careful, they could come loose during wear. With bridgework, you might have trouble effectively brushing or flossing around false teeth, leading to potential oral health issues like plaque and tartar buildup, and the tooth decay and gum disease that can follow.
In addition, dental implants preserve not only your alignment and bite, but also the structure of your jaw. When a tooth is lost and there are no longer roots to support, the bone of the jaw can recede in that area, creating a hollow. With dentures, this will mean adjustments. With a dental implant, the titanium post goes deep into the jaw and bonds with the bone, acting as a sturdy anchor for the crown above, so that you can chew normally, but also preserving the integrity of the bone.
Dental implants are easily the longest-lasting option for tooth replacement. They may come at greater up-front expense, but you’ll get your money’s worth. Bridges must be replaced or upgraded if anchor teeth on either side are compromised. Dentures may need constant adjustment as your jaw bone shrinks.
Dental implants, or at least the portion implanted in your jaw, will last a lifetime. The crowns that sit on top, like other types of false teeth, are good for about 10-15 years in general, with proper care. Still, your dental implants will give you everything other options provide, plus increased functionality and the peace of mind that comes with knowing you can eat, drink, smile, laugh, brush, and floss with confidence, just as you would with natural teeth.