Understanding the benefits of tooth replacement
What is a dental implant?
A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. If you compare natural teeth to implant-supported replacement teeth, you’ll see they have the same basic parts. Both have a crown (the visible part used to chew food) and both have a root that holds the tooth securely under the gum and is anchored to the jaw. The difference is that the implant is made of titanium, the same accepted material used for artificial joints.
When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace the tooth, the doctor first replaces the root with a small dental implant. Time is then allowed for the bone to heal and grow around the dental implant.
Why replace missing teeth?
Your teeth affect your entire body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech and eating choices. As you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely, become damaged or lost completely.
Who would want their appearance and health to deteriorate? That’s the natural consequence of missing teeth – the jaw literally melts away. Generally, people lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year of tooth loss.
The great news… Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance.
When are dental implants placed?
Implants are often placed several months after extraction. At times, an implant may be placed immediately after extraction of a tooth. If your tooth has been missing for some time, the adjacent support bone is likely to grow thinner and shrink. This occurs because the root of the natural tooth has to be present to stimulate the bone. As much as one-third of your jaw’s thickness can be lost in the year following tooth extraction. If you are missing enough bone, you may benefit from having additional bone grafted into the area. This ensures the implant will be adequately supported when it is placed in the jaw.
Do I have enough bone?
A bone graft is often placed at the time of tooth extraction to help your body fill in the empty socket with bone. This step will maintain the width and volume of bone you will need for the implant several months later.
Bone grafting is usually a relatively comfortable office procedure. Many different bone grafting materials are available. You may also need bone grafting if the sinus cavities in your upper jaw are very large, or very low, and extend into the tooth-bearing areas. This often occurs when teeth in the back of a person’s upper jaw have been removed many years before, and the amount of bone available for implant is limited. A sinus-grafting procedure is then required. Most often it is performed in the office with local anesthesia.
How many implants do I need?
Most frequently, one implant per missing tooth is placed.
Do I have options?
You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.
Am I a good candidate?
A good candidate is anyone who is missing one or more teeth, or who is unhappy with their dentures. Age is not a factor. However, smoking, diseases such as diabetes, and radiation therapy have been shown to lower the success rate of implant surgery.