Of all the ways modern dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants are by far the best. There is no tooth-replacement option that will give you a longer-lasting result. Implants also help preserve tooth-supporting bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost.
A dental implant most often takes the form of a small, screw-shaped titanium post that replaces the root-part of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure used to place an implant is actually quite minor and routine, requiring only local anesthesia in most cases. After a healing period, the implant is topped with a lifelike crown custom-made to match your existing natural teeth. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95%, which is significantly higher than any other tooth-replacement option.
How Implants Work
During a minor surgical procedure, your dental implant is inserted directly into the jawbone in the space vacated by the missing tooth. It will then be left to heal for a period of months before the final crown is attached. During this healing period, the implant actually fuses to the bone surrounding it.
Tooth Replacement Options Using Dental Implants
Implants can be used in a variety of ways to replace missing teeth:
- Multiple Tooth Replacement — When you have more than one tooth missing, implants provide an ideal replacement mechanism. You don’t even need one implant for every missing tooth. Instead, implant teeth can act as supports for fixed bridgework. For example, if you are missing three teeth in a row, we can place two implants, one on either side of the gap, and a crown in between that has no implant underneath. An advantage of this method is that there is no need for natural teeth to serve as supports for fixed bridgework. When natural teeth are used as abutments for fixed bridgework, they can become weakened and subject to tooth decay and root canal problems — something you won’t have to worry about if implants are used instead.
- Single Tooth Replacement — When you have one tooth missing, a single implant is inserted into the bone to replace the root part of that tooth; a crown then goes on top to simulate an actual tooth. This treatment choice has the highest success rate, making it the best long-term investment for replacing a single missing tooth — even if the initial cost is slightly higher than other options. An implant will never decay or need root canal treatment, and feels just like the tooth that was there.
- Implant-Supported Overdentures — Implants can even make dentures more comfortable, effective and healthier to wear. Traditional dentures rely on support from the gums and underlying bone. The pressure from dentures accelerates bone loss so that eventually the gum and bony ridges no longer effectively hold the dentures in place, particularly on the bottom. But, in the lower jaw, we can place two implants over which a removable denture can attach, transferring that pressure into the bone structure rather than the bone surface, and preserving the bone directly under the dentures. The stability provided by implants is also important because it prevents the tongue from easily displacing a lower denture in the normal course of eating and speaking. In the upper jaw, an implant-supported overdenture requires more than two implants because there is less bone density than in the lower jaw.
Implant Care and Maintenance
There are only two ways an implant can lose attachment to the bone and fail once it has successfully fused: poor oral hygiene or excessive biting forces. Poor oral hygiene and/or a lack of regular cleanings can lead to a destructive bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Flossing and brushing your teeth on a daily basis, along with regular professional cleanings, can prevent this. Excessive biting forces can come from either a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth, or an insufficient number of implants to handle the forces generated by your bite. We will make sure you receive the correct number of implants so this does not happen. And if you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, we will recommend wearing a nightguard to protect your implants. After all, implants are a long-term investment in your smile, your health and your well-being, so let’s do our best to protect your investment.
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