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.