A Patient’s Guide to Dental Implants
When you think about your dental health, you may remember upcoming appointments or recent procedures. Unless you have already experienced loss of an adult tooth, you likely do not think about retaining your teeth. Most individuals assume that they’ll have their natural teeth for their entire lives.
However, adult tooth loss can occur due to impact injuries, advanced tooth decay, overall health problems, and other causes that you may or may not be able to plan for. In fact, the American Academy of Implant Dentistry estimates that 69% of adults between the ages of 35 and 44 have lost at least one tooth.
So what are your options when you lose a permanent tooth? In this blog, we discuss one of the preferred kinds of tooth replacement: dental implants.
What Are Dental Implants?
Individual dental implants consist of three primary parts, the implant itself, the abutment, and the crown.
The actual implant portion of each dental implant provides a strong anchor for the false tooth. The implant looks similar to a screw and is made of surgical-quality metal, usually titanium. This screw is placed in the jawbone and then allowed to heal.
Once the implant has been integrated into the patient’s jaw, the dentist adds an abutment to the top of the screw. The abutment consists of a small metal component that connects the implant to the false tooth.
With the abutment in place, the dentist completes the dental implant with a natural-looking crown that matches the color and shape of the teeth around it. These crowns are typically made of strong dental porcelain.
Implant placement can take between three and nine months, depending on the patient’s overall and oral health.
Who Can Get Dental Implants?
While dental implants offer a smart, long-term solution for many patients’ tooth loss, this procedure is not for everyone. Good candidates for dental implants must have:
- Adequate bone density—Because the implant goes directly into the jawbone, patients must have the bone density required to hold the implant in place. In some cases, if the patient does not have adequate bone density in the area, the dentist may recommend a bone graft.
- Adequate healing capabilities—Patients with compromised immune systems may experience discomfort and incomplete healing of dental implants. Dentists evaluate each patient’s history to determine whether or not he or she is healthy enough for the procedure. Patients who smoke, who have autoimmune disorders, or who were recently treated for an oral cancer may not be good candidates for implants.
- Healthy gums—Dental implants must successfully integrate into the gum tissue. Patients with gum disease may need to improve their gum health before receiving implants.
- Good oral health and hygiene—As with any surgery, the dental implant procedure comes with a risk of infection. Patients who are in good oral health and who take care of their mouths are less likely to experience complications during the process.
Because the implant process can potentially take the better part of a year, it’s also important that patients are able to keep seeing the same dentist during this time.
How Do You Take Care of Dental Implants?
For the most part, patients must take care of dental implants the same way they take care of their natural teeth. While implants cannot develop cavities, it’s important to keep the crown’s surface clean and to care for the gum tissue around the implant to prevent stability problems.
A combination of daily brushing and flossing along with regular dental visits is adequate for most patients with implants.
Additionally, your dentist may recommend avoiding habits that could crack or chip the crown. You may need to wear a mouth guard if you grind your teeth, reduce or eliminate caffeine and dark-colored alcoholic beverages from your diet, and avoid chewing hard items like ice in the implant area.
What Advantages Do Implants Offer Over Other Methods?
Dental implants work more effectively than bridges or dentures for some patients. Implants offer the following advantages over other tooth replacement methods:
- Looks and feels more natural.
- Better restoration of normal speech and eating capability.
- Less risk of gum irritation and no risk of slippage.
- Results that can last potentially last for the rest of the patient’s life, as opposed to 5 to 10 years for bridges and dentures.
The right tooth replacement method for you may depend on your health, your budget, and the extent of your tooth loss. Your dentist will discuss these factors with you to help you decide if dental implants are your best option.
Adult tooth loss can be painful and may even be embarrassing, but it needn’t keep you from smiling, laughing, enjoying good food, and communicating normally.
If you’ve experienced adult tooth loss, talk to an expert at Northwest Dental Services and Implant Center to determine if dental implants are right for you.