If you’re missing teeth for any reason, you don’t need to live with a compromised smile, or with limited function. There are several options for replacing teeth, including dental implants, which are considered the gold standard in tooth replacement. These substitute teeth are extremely durable; as long as you care for them properly, they’ll essentially serve as permanent replacements. Moreover, they mimic both the appearance and function of natural teeth.
The process of receiving dental implants does take some time. You need to coordinate with an oral surgeon to understand what type of treatment schedule you should anticipate. By staying in contact with a qualified professional, you’ll be more confident in the eventual results.
What You Should Know About the Treatment Process
Regardless of the reason why you lost a tooth or teeth, odds are you want a reliable substitute to replace any that are missing. This isn’t simply for cosmetic purposes. Your teeth play an essential role in your daily life. On top of that, when teeth are missing, they can sometimes contribute to facial structure and/or jaw alignment problems.
That’s why you should discuss this topic with a professional. If your dentist determines implants are the right treatment for your needs, he or she likely will refer you to an oral surgeon. However, you can reach out to an oral surgeon directly if you want to learn more about this option.
The first step in your treatment involves evaluating the condition and strength of your jawbone. Because the jaw anchors the actual implant, it needs to be relatively strong. Some patients lack sufficient jawbone tissue to support dental implants. Luckily, that doesn’t mean they aren’t eligible for this form of treatment. In these instances, the oral surgeon may suggest bone grafting. This is a procedure in which bone tissue from another part of the body is removed and grafted onto the jawbone. Alternatively, new technologies allow surgeons to rebuild your jaw bone without having to harvest additional tissue from you. While this extra step does add more time to the treatment process, it’s necessary for patients whose jawbones aren’t strong enough to keep a dental implant in place.
Once the oral surgeon is satisfied that a patient’s jaw tissue is sufficient for the procedure, he or she will attach the initial implant. The implant itself is actually just a small rod, made of a titanium alloy, that a surgeon inserts directly into the jawbone. Then, the rod needs time to fuse to the bone tissue in a process called osseointegration. During this period, which lasts several weeks, you will wear a temporary “tooth,” which most commonly has been prepared by your general dentist.
This crown is replaced with a permanent substitute once the implant has fused to your jawbone. This new crown is custom-made to match the shape and appearance of your natural teeth.
The Benefits of Dental Implants
Aside from dental implants, dentures and bridges can be used to replace missing teeth. That said, dental implants are often an ideal treatment for a variety of reasons.
First of all, unlike dentures, implants can’t be removed. They remain in the mouth permanently, just like natural teeth. Unlike bridges, they don’t require any additional work to be performed on the teeth adjacent to those that are missing; often, with bridges, the adjacent teeth need to be drilled into, even if there is nothing wrong with them.
This isn’t necessary with a dental implant. Moreover, due to their durability, dental implants are ideal for people with active lifestyles. Finally, because the dental implant transmits the forces of chewing and function into the jaw bone, it is the only tooth replacement procedure that stimulates the jaw bones to maintain their healthy levels forever.
Essential Points to Keep in Mind
Although dental implants are durable, just like your natural teeth, you need to protect them. That means practicing basic dental hygiene. While bacteria and plaque can’t eat away at an implant the same way they eat away at your real teeth, neglecting proper hygiene can allow bacteria to accumulate and travel to your gums or neighboring teeth.
You should also take steps to protect implants from damage. For example, if you’re playing a sport that may involve potential blows to the face, wear a mouthguard.
Most importantly, feel free to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your dental professionals. Their job isn’t simply to provide treatment; it also involves making sure you understand the treatment. With their help, you’ll keep your dental implants in great shape for years.