Millions of Americans suffer from tooth loss due to a wide variety of factors. Decay, disease, injury, and trauma can all result in the loss of one or more teeth. In years past, patients had limited options when it came to replacing missing teeth; they could opt for a dental bridge or they could choose to go the denture route. Dental technology has advanced significantly over the last couple of decades, however, and now dental implants are a viable-- and often preferable-- option for patients who are missing teeth.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants serve as artificial tooth roots. They are titanium posts that are surgically implanted into the upper or lower jaws. Once implanted, these fixtures fuse with surrounding bone, thus providing secure anchors to keep replacement teeth in place. Titanium is the material of choice for implants because it's compatible with the human body. There are several benefits that make dental implants a popular choice for tooth replacement, including:
- Durability. With proper oral hygiene and preventive care, dental implants can potentially last a lifetime. Fortunately, they don't require a lot of maintenance or treatment beyond the care necessary for natural teeth-- brushing twice a day, flossing daily, and visiting the dentist twice a year for professional cleanings and check-ups.
- Easy to use. While dentures can be a viable treatment option for tooth loss, they're not often described as convenient. After all, dentures are removable, and thus can sometimes slip out of place. Implants, on the other hand, are treated as natural teeth, so patients can bypass the inconveniences associated with removable dentures.
- Improved speech. Dentures that aren't fitted properly can result in speech difficulties-- most commonly, slurring of the words. Implants allow patients to speak normally without worrying about dentures slipping or falling out of place.
- Confidence boosting. Many people with missing teeth report feeling embarrassment or low self-esteem associated with their tooth loss. Dental implants, then, can provide a confidence boost for patients and subsequently improve patients' overall quality of life.
The Implant Process
Many patients wonder what they can expect during the dental implant process. Your dentist will discuss the steps with you before beginning treatment. Typically, the implant process follows the following timeline:
- Implant placement. The titanium implants are surgically placed into the jawbone. This is most often done under local anesthesia in the dentist's office, much the same way a filling is treated. After the implantation, your dentist will likely recommend a diet of soft foods as you heal.
- Osseointegration. Next, a process called osseointegration occurs. This means that the bone actually grows around the implant, making it secure and holding it firmly in place. When the replacement teeth are attached depends largely on the patient; some patients will have their replacement teeth placed the same day they receive their implants. Other patients might have to wait several months-- until osseointegration is complete-- to have their replacement teeth placed.
- Replacement teeth. The final step in the implant process is the placement of artificial teeth. For patients missing only a single tooth, a customized crown will be designed to blend in with your natural teeth. For patients missing more than just one tooth, a dental bridge or dentures will be created for you. Like the crown, the dentures and bridge are custom-made to fit your mouth and your implant. In the meantime, your dentist might use a temporary crown, bridge, or denture until your restorations are completed.
If you suffer from tooth loss, it's time to stop hiding your smile from the world. Contact us today to learn more about available treatment options for tooth loss.