Prosthodontics, Implants, Cosmetic & Reconstructive Dentistry

When to Consider Dental Implants

Implants have been around for more than fifty years as a tooth restoration option. This is great news for Americans, as studies indicate that up to 50% of the population has at least one missing tooth. For people between 65 and 74 years, about 30% of them do not have a single natural tooth.

For most people, the question is not whether dental implants are ideal for them, but whether they should have them in the first place. This article will inform you when you should consider dental implants, if you are an ideal candidate, and the benefits of having dental implants.

What are Dental Implants?

Teeth are the strongest part of the human body, but they are often easily and permanently damaged. Apart from chewing, teeth provide structure to our facial muscles, thus improving your appearance.

Teeth are an essential part of our self-confidence and self-worth. Few have the courage or inclination to go flashing a toothless smile (unless you are an infant, of course)

While dental care best practices can lengthen teeth’ durability, people still end up with dental problems that require replacement of their natural teeth.

Implants are the closest tooth replacement alternative that replaces the functionality and aesthetic of natural teeth. Unlike other options such as dentures, implants can improve our appearance by preventing bone loss on the gap left by the missing tooth.

Implants are structures made of a titanium screw and a replacement tooth. The titanium screw is surgically implanted below the gum at the missing tooth's position before a crown can be affixed to the top of the titanium screw.

Implants trigger bone development around the titanium rod, which leads to the firm attachment of the artificial tooth (mimicking a natural tooth).

The American Academy of Implant Dentistry recognizes two types of dental implants:

  • Endosteal implants that are implanted directly into the jawbone of people who have sufficient bone tissue to support an implant
  • Subperiosteal implants, which use a metal frame, fits into the jawbone. The dentist then attached posts to the metal frame to support an artificial tooth. These implants are ideal for patients without sufficient healthy bone to support implants.

Dental implants have several uses in dentistry, including the following:

  • Replacement of individual missing teeth where each implant serves as the root for one artificial tooth
  • Implants can be used to support fixed and removable dentures if you have several missing teeth. Implant-supported overdentures have the advantage of improved support, stability, and retention.
  • Implants are also used to support dental bridges. Traditional dental bridges depend on one or more natural teeth for support; however, implant bridges use implants on either side of the bridge, making them ideal where you intend to protect your existing natural teeth.

Implants are an ideal tooth replacement option for people who have:

  • One or more missing teeth
  • Healthy gums
  • Sufficient bone tissues to support the implant (or can qualify for bone grafting)
  • Have great oral hygiene habits to facilitate the long-term success of implants
  • Fully developed jawbone
  • You do not have a medical condition that could affect your recovery or undergoing treatment such as radiation or chemotherapy.

Your dentist will evaluate you before placing an implant to determine whether you are an eligible candidate and discuss other restoration options with you. The doctor could also suggest additional treatments to help you become eligible for dental implants. For example, if you smoke, the dentist will recommend quitting as smoking triggers the existing bone tissue’s resorption.

When to Choose Dental Implants

Choosing the best tooth restoration option could take a lot of deliberation. You will need to explore the available options, their pros and cons, and your eligibility for these restoration alternatives.

Some of the factors that will determine the type of dental restoration you choose include:

  • The type of damage leading to the need for restoration
  • The extent of damage on the tooth
  • The number of missing or damaged teeth
  • The oral and periodontal health and stability
  • Your personal preferences
  • Affordability of different options

Some of the reasons you could choose to have a dental implant placed to replace your missing tooth or to support other prostheses such as dental bridges include:

  • In cases whether tooth decay is too severe to restore the tooth using a dental filling
  • You lost the entire tooth.
  • You are ineligible for dentures.
  • You are currently using a fixed bridge, leading to additional problems such as discomfort and deterioration of the bone below the bridge.
  • Your jawbone is deteriorating, altering your facial structures significantly (deterioration of the jawbone results in a sunken face)

Apart from the reasons above, you should consider dental implants for their aesthetics. Dental implants have the strength, durability, and appearance of natural teeth. They will boost your confidence around people and with yourself and improve the way you chew and speak.

In addition, replacing a missing tooth with an implant prevents other teeth’ movement on that jaw, retaining your facial appearance. Dental implants are also stable compared to dentures making them easy to clean and maintain.

Both young and older people can use dental implants; you are an eligible candidate as long as your jaw is fully developed and you meet other eligibility conditions.

Benefits of Dental Implants

You need to consider the benefits of having dental implants if you are considering them for replacing your missing teeth or as support for fixed or removable dentures. Some of the benefits include:

  • Implants trigger bone regeneration in the part where you lost the tooth. The use of implants relies on Osseointegration, where the screw of the implant triggers bone development where it is implanted. Such bone regeneration ensures that your jawbone remains intact hence preserving your appearance.
  • Implants boost your appearance and self-confidence. They appear as permanent teeth and do not need to be removed or held in place with your tongue. Most of the time, you will not notice the artificial tooth.
  • Tooth replacement options such as dentures come with the risk of irritating your gums, leading to mouth ulcers and halitosis conditions. Implants do not come with these risks since they take your missing tooth’s position and serve the same purpose as the lost tooth.
  • Dental implants are convenient and comfortable. They are held firmly into the jawbone and do not require constant adjustments or removal. They are also easy to maintain since they do not have special care requirements after their removal. They also save you the embarrassment of having to remove and adjust your dentures.
  • Dental implants are long-lasting. With proper care, similar to that accorded to natural teeth, dental implants can last a lifetime.
  • Dental implants stay in place. Therefore, they do not make speaking and eating difficult.

Although implants have several aesthetic and function advantages, they present several disadvantages as well, including:

  • The dental implant process takes a long time from the first surgery to the recovery. It is, therefore, not the ideal choice if you are looking for an immediate fix.
  • You could develop complications such as infections of the gum, which could lead to bone loss.
  • Dental implants could also require additional procedures such as bone grafting or sinus lifting, depending on your specific needs. These additional procedures increase the treatment and recovery time.
  • Dental implants are considerably more expensive compared to other dental restoration procedures. The costs also increase as the number of replacements increase. In addition, most insurance companies do not cover dental implants; therefore, you need to consult with your insurance provider before you commit unless you can pay for the implants yourself.
  • Dental implants could fail - about 10% of dental implants fail, especially if you have some disqualifying factors, develop an infection, or got the implants from a dentist not qualified to place implants.

Dental implants could also lead to several complications, including:

  • Infection at the surgical site
  • Injury to the surrounding tissues, including blood vessels or neighboring teeth
  • Damage to the surrounding nerves
  • Sinus problems, particularly where implants are on the upper jaw

All factors considered, dental implants are a more permanent solution, and their practicality and aesthetics make an investment in them a worthy cause.

You can compare other options with your dentist and evaluate for yourself the option you would prefer.

The Dental Implant Procedure

Understanding the dental implant procedure will help you consider choosing dental implants for restoring your missing teeth.

The first step in the dental implant procedure is a comprehensive dental examination. This examination involves a visual exam, an x-ray, and a review of your medical records.

The dentist will also measure your jawbone to ensure that you have the right bone density to support an implant, and your jaw can undergo successful surgical procedures.

The dentist will also collect additional information such as your general health, any allergies you have to anesthetic or dental materials, and the medication you are currently using.

The dentist will prescribe antibiotics before and after each procedure if you have a suppressed immune system. They will also tell you whether the medication you are using can affect the implant’s surgery and healing and recommend the best action.

Sometimes, your jawbone might need additional preparation, such as bone grafting or reshaping, before placing the implant. In other cases, the dentist will have to remove damaged teeth.

The dentist might place the implant and abutment in a single procedure if you are healthy. Your procedure, in this case, will take fewer visits and significantly shorter recovery time.

A thorough dental examination will give the dentist adequate information to formulate a treatment plan to meet your unique needs.

Where necessary, the dentist will put you on a course of antibiotics to boost your immune system and prevent your immunity from attacking the implants. Antibiotics are also necessary before and after dental implants for people living with chronic conditions.

Before the procedure, you must fast for 12 hours before surgery. Talk to your dentist if you have any concerns about fasting. On the day of the surgery, you should wear loose, comfortable clothing.

During the surgery, the dentist will cut your gum to expose the bone and then drill holes into the bone to provide the area for placement of the titanium rod (which will serve as the root of your dental replacement). The rod goes deep into the bone to ensure it holds firmly to support the tooth.

Once placed, the dentist will close the cut and might place a temporary denture if needed. You will need to remove this denture for cleaning and before you sleep.

The next step after implanting the titanium rod is waiting for the healing and development of bone around the dental implant (Osseointegration). The process could take several months, but when successful, the result is a firm tooth root.

Once the bone development phase is complete, you will return for the placement of an abutment. The dentist will perform a minor surgical procedure to expose the dental implant. The abutment attached to the implant provides the place for attachment of the crown.

The dentist will complete the procedure by closing the gum around the abutment and leave the top of the abutment protruding. You will wait for two weeks for the abutment to heal and return for the final procedure.

After the gum heals, the dentist will make impressions of your mouth, which will guide the dentist in making your crown. The result will be a crown that resembles your natural teeth in shape and color.

You can choose to have a removable or fixed based on your preferences. A removable tooth or denture can be taken off for cleaning and before sleeping. On the other hand, fixed artificial teeth are cemented directly to the implant and cannot be taken off for cleaning or before sleeping.

The dental implant procedure could be completed in one sitting or require multiple visits depending on your specific needs. Most people who have had implants report slight discomfort during the procedure.

You could experience other discomforts after the procedure, such as swelling and bruising of the gums, bruising of the skin, pain, and minor bleeding.

Your dentist will prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to help you manage pain and reduce the risk of infections. In most cases, dental implants are successful, but in some instances, the implant might fail due to the implant's failure to fuse with the jawbone sufficiently. Habits such as smoking could also affect the healing process and weaken your immunity contributing to implant failure.

You can prevent some cases of implant failure by:

  • Practicing good oral hygiene as you would with your natural teeth, including brushing at least twice a day and flossing regularly. You can use an interdental toothbrush to help you reach the spaces between teeth and around the implant post.
  • Visit your dentist regularly for checkups to ensure that your implants are healing as expected.
  • Avoid habits such as smoking and chewing hard items such as candy and ice that could damage your teeth and the artificial tooth.

The dental implant procedure could take between three to nine months, depending on the preparation procedures required as well as the health of your gums and density of your jawbone. Your ability to heal will determine the time it takes to complete the procedure. Healing after the final procedure takes between four and eight weeks.

Some of the steps you can take to speed up healing and recovery after the procedure include:

  • Getting a lot of rest, especially in the days following the procedure
  • Using gauze on your gums to stop minor bleeding in the first 24 hours of the procedure
  • Using a cold compress on your face and jaw to reduce swelling (use the compress for fifteen minutes at a time)
  • Eat soft foods such as soups, steamed vegetables, rice, and yogurt to avoid interfering with your gums’ healing.
  • Use pain medication to relieve pain in the first few days after the procedure.
  • Reduce activities that could cause trauma to your teeth, such as contact sports
  • Avoid smoking
  • Avoid hot foods and drinks to avoid irritating your gums.
  • Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol and increase your water intake to keep yourself hydrated
  • Use saltwater rinses to keep bacteria from your mouth.
  • Incorporate good oral hygiene to keep food particles and harmful bacteria off your mouth
  • Follow all the instructions and recommendations from your dentist.

Find a Dental Implant Dentist Near Me

Choosing a tooth replacement option can be a tedious process. You have to weigh the benefits, costs, risks, complications, and longevity of the available options before settling on your ideal choice based on your needs and preferences.

Dentists at Tarzana Dental Care understand the uncertainty and deliberation that go into choosing a tooth replacement option. We make this process easier for our patients by providing detailed information to help you decide. You will learn from us the advantages and disadvantages of various dental replacement options, including implants.

Call us at 818-708-3232 to book an appointment if you are considering dental implants.

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