Replacing Missing Teeth
Your teeth affect your whole 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, or be damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.
The natural consequence of missing teeth is the jaw bone resorbs away. Generally, people will lose 25% of their supporting jawbone structure within the first year after tooth loss. Dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted because bone replacement becomes more complex as time passes. The great news? Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance. Your restorative dentist and periodontist will provide you with options so that you can make the most informed decision concerning tooth replacement.
Tooth Replacement Options
You can select from a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.
A good candidate for dental implants is anyone 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 to the area, have been shown to lower the success rate of implant placement. 3-D X-rays of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants. Detailed x-rays may also be required to determine if other tests or procedures are needed to place implants properly.
A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth is usually removed or ground down prior to attaching the bridge.
A fragile, temporary and inexpensive solution is a removable plastic tooth with a plastic retainer, often called a “flipper”.
A less fragile option is a removable partial denture cast in metal and plastic. It is held in place by wire clips. A removable partial denture can be removed and reinserted when required by the patient.
The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in one or both jaws are complete dentures. Some people adapt well to dentures. Others find them uncomfortable, even intolerable, because of differences in jaw size and shape.
Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw healthy and strong. Implants support individual replacement teeth or secure specialized dentures in place. Unlike bridges, no healthy teeth are damaged. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.
What are Implants?
Dental implants are hollow screws made of an alloy of titanium and zirconium. Titanium is the metal used for hip and knee replacements by orthopedic surgeons. It has a very long track record of safety and is used because it is both very strong and very bio-compatible.
Implants are threaded on their hollow interior so that different types of things can be screwed into them. For a single missing tooth, a ceramic crown can be connected to the implant. For people who have a denture and are looking to make it more stable, a ball-type of attachment can be placed on the implant and then the denture will have a couple of nylon gaskets placed on its underside to snap onto the implants. They are very versatile and can be used in different ways to improve someone’s dental health.
THe implant Treatment Sequence
There are many factors involved in the implant process but a rough outline is that for a tooth that needs to be extracted and replaced, it takes about 6 months to go from extracting the tooth to finishing the treatment and getting the final ceramic crown delivered. Normally, after a tooth is extracted and a bone graft placed to help the bone grow back, we wait about 4 months for the bone to regenerate. Then, the actual implant is placed but no crown attached to it right away. Finally, the implant is checked about 2-4 months later and then the restorative dentist finishes things by making the ceramic crown for the implant and attaching it. Implant treatment is usually a team effort between your restorative dentist and periodontist to give you the best result.
Why select dental implants over more traditional types of restorations?
There are several reasons: A dental bridge can sacrifice the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth. In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” at night may be inconvenient, not to mention dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing.