Your smile is one of the first things that a person will notice about you. A missing tooth or two can easily make an initial meeting stressful and leave you feeling uneasy. Though nothing can replace your natural teeth, dental implants come very close. An implant will look and feel like your natural teeth enabling you to talk and chew with ease.
What is a dental implant?
Dental implants are an effective method in replacing missing teeth. A dental implant functions as an artificial tooth root that is surgically inserted into your jaw to hold a replacement tooth securely. Dental implants can even support dentures or bridges and are indistinguishable from your natural teeth once properly fitted for your mouth.
Implants can be an excellent option for those who have missing teeth due to disease or accident/injury. It may also be an alternative for those who find wearing dentures uncomfortable or have difficulty keeping their other teeth intact due to missing teeth.
There are two general types of dental implants:
- Endosteal (in the bone)- This is the most common dental implant. It is surgically placed into the patient’s jawbone and can hold more than one tooth if necessary. This implant is typically used for implant-supported bridges and dentures.
- Subperiosteal (on the bone)- These implants are placed onto the jaw with their posts protruding through the gum to hold the replacement teeth. These types are often used for those who are unable to wear conventional dentures.
Why should you replace your missing teeth?
Though a gap in your tooth may not bother you as much, there are other reasons why you should consider dental implants.
- Missing teeth may affect how you eat and speak
- Teeth surrounding the gap may begin to shift affecting your bite leading to other dental issues
- Bone loss may occur due to surrounding teeth becoming loose over time
- Loss of teeth and bone may change your facial structure
Dental implants offer firm support similar to that of your natural teeth; they will not shift or slip once properly applied by your dentist. This secure fit allows for a more comfortable experience than dentures or bridges.
Other benefits include:
- Improved confidence-With implants that look and feel just like your own teeth, so no need to hide that beautiful smile anymore!
- Improved comfort- Dental implants are securely anchored into your jaw, so there is no chance of slippage that can lead to irritation and other discomforts.
- Improved health- These implants will help prevent the deterioration of the jawbone caused by missing teeth so that your face retains its natural shape.
- Convenience- Unlike dentures, implants are permanent, and you can treat them the same as you would your other teeth.
Are you the right candidate?
Good general and oral health are essential when it comes to considering dental implants as a treatment for your missing teeth. Your health is more important than your age when it comes to implants, as adequate bone health is needed in your jaw to support implants. The best candidates are those who are free of periodontal disease (gum disease).
You will have to be medically evaluated by a physician before any surgery can be scheduled. Those who suffer from chronic illness may not be ideal candidates as slow healing may make patients more prone to infections.
Various kinds of dental implants are available, depending on your needs. Treatment can take a day or several months, so it is important to speak with your dentist to discuss which type of implant is right for you.
The procedure for dental implants has three general steps:
Placement of the implant
- Your dentist will determine where the implant should be installed with the help of x-rays and other tests. He will then surgically place the implant into the jawbone. You may experience swelling and tenderness after the surgery. Your doctor may prescribe you medication or recommend over-the-counter medicine to ease the discomfort. A limited diet of soft foods may be required during recovery.
- A dental implant is secure because the post is fused to your jawbone. This allows your bone to grow around the post as it heals, creating a firm and sturdy bond similar to that of your natural teeth. Bones take time to heal, so it may take several months before you can receive a replacement tooth. However, some may receive temporary replacement teeth earlier. The healing process is different for everyone because it depends on the patient, condition of the jaw, location of the implant, and type.
Placement of prosthesis (replacement tooth/teeth)
- Once your jaw has healed, your dentist will remove the temporary teeth and replace them with custom-made teeth designed to look, feel, and act like natural teeth. These custom-made dental crowns or teeth will match in size, shape, and color to your other teeth for a natural appearance.
Dental implants should be treated the same as your natural teeth. Brushing and flossing regularly at home, along with routine exams by your dentist will help keep your teeth plaque-free and clean.