Replacing a Missing Tooth
A natural tooth is anchored into the jawbone by its root structure. Tooth roots attach firmly to the jawbone and keep your teeth stable when chewing solid foods. Traditionally, if you were missing a tooth or if one needed to be extracted, the healthy teeth on either side of the missing tooth would be cut down and replaced with a three-crown “fixed bridge.” Dental implants are the modern alternative. Instead of cutting down two perfectly healthy teeth, the practitioner inserts a dental post (dental implant) into the jawbone to replace your missing tooth root. This post becomes solidly fixed into your jaw (like a natural tooth root). Your general dentist then places a crown onto this artificial tooth root that looks, feels, and functions like your natural teeth.
Replacing Several Missing Teeth
Traditionally, several missing teeth would have been replaced with a removable partial or full denture.
Dentures have to be taken out and soaked at night. During the day, they can also look unnatural and rub painfully. Dentures and partials make it difficult or impossible to eat certain foods.
Dental implants can now be used to anchor partial and full dentures. This prevents the slipping, irritation and pain associated with “floating” partials and dentures. It also prevents the tedious removal of dentures for overnight soaking and cleaning. Dental implants also eliminate the need for dental adhesives. This allows you to enjoy eating the foods you previously avoided . With dental implants, your partials or dentures are firmly anchored to the jawbone, causing them to feel much more like natural teeth.
Natural tooth roots and dental implant posts are fixed firmly in your jawbone. When you chew, these tooth roots and posts stimulate the jawbone and prevent it from shrinking. You may have seen a person who looked prematurely old because their jawbone had shrunk after wearing floating dentures. Dental implants help preserve your jawbone and appearance.
Does the Procedure Hurt?
The discomfort involved with receiving a dental implant is similar to that of having a cavity filled. It is often done under local anesthesia and patients generally experience little discomfort after the procedure.
How Long Will Dental Implants Last?
Dental implants become fixed to the jawbone. Though the life span of a dental implant will vary with each patient, many have lasted for over 30 years. With good oral hygiene and regular cleanings, dental implants should last a lifetime. In contrast, the average life span of a traditional fixed bridge is between 10-15 years.
A critical question in determining whether an implant can be placed is, “Is there enough bone to support the implant?” Fortunately, advanced bone regeneration techniques now make it possible to place many more implants than just 10 years ago.
Am I a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Dental implant treatment begins with an evaluation by your general dentist who will determine if you are a good candidate for this procedure. If he or she feels dental implants might be possible, he or she will send you to a periodontist for a placement evaluation.