Tooth loss is more common than you might expect. Research shows that as many as 120 million people in the U.S are missing at least one adult tooth, and this number is expected to rise during the next decade. There are many reasons why someone might lose a tooth, but decay, gum disease, and injury are three of the most common causes.
Losing even just one tooth can have a significant impact on your day to day life. Depending on the location of the gap in your smile, you may find your missing tooth impairs your ability to bite or chew your food as you would usually. You may even find that it affects the way that you form sounds when you speak. Unsurprisingly, the more teeth that are missing, the greater the effect it will have on your ability to use them. The psychological effect of missing teeth can be substantial too, with many people becoming self-conscious or even ashamed of how their teeth look with gaps in them.
Fortunately, there are methods for restoring missing teeth. Dental implants are one of the most popular solutions.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are a long-term, permanent solution for missing teeth. Not only can dental implants be used to replace single teeth that have fallen out or been extracted, but the technique can also be used to support larger restorations including bridges and dentures.
Dental implants have several different elements. The most crucial, which is the implant itself, is a titanium post or screw. This is the part of the solution that acts as an artificial root and is the unique element that sets implants apart from other tooth replacements. Each titanium post is inserted surgically into the jawbone at a pre-planned position. Single missing teeth require just one implant post to replace them, but if you are having an implant-supported bridge or denture, you will need two or more. Again, their position is carefully planned using x-rays and potentially CT scans of your jaw. Patients must have enough healthy bone in the jaw for implants to be successful. This is because once in place, the bone needs to regenerate around the post to cement it permanently in place.
The other key element of a dental implant is the porcelain crown. This is designed specifically for each patient based on their individual requirements and attaches to the post using a connector called an abutment. In creating a bespoke crown, it ensures that the restoration looks and feels just like a natural tooth. If you are having a bridge or denture, then this will be custom designed and manufactured, then attached to the implant posts.
What happens in a dental implant procedure?
A dental implant procedure usually takes place over several appointments. This is because the titanium posts will need to be implanted and your jaw left to heal before they can be loaded with your chosen restoration. This healing process typically takes between 3-6 months. During this time, you will be fitted with a generic restoration. Once the posts are healed into place, your bespoke restoration can be manufactured and fitted.
Unsurprisingly, since receiving dental implant posts is a surgical procedure, you will be given a local anesthetic beforehand. Once you are numb, a hole will be drilled through the gum tissue and into the bone, into which the post will be placed. You will be given specific advice to follow regarding taking care of your mouth and implants while you heal.
Advantages of dental implants
There are a variety of reasons why dental implants are the preferred tooth replacement solution for many patients. These include the following:
- Permanence. Dental implants cannot be removed by the wearer.
- Greater stability. Since they are anchored to the jaw, they are more secure and stable than other solutions.
- Comfort. Dental implants feel just like natural teeth.
- No need to compromise what you eat for fear of pulling your implant out.
- Simple to clean, as you can brush and floss them just like regular teeth.
- Your porcelain crown cannot decay.
- Dental implants require minimal maintenance.
- Your implant could last as long as 25 years.