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Am I a Candidate for Dental Implants?

Tooth loss can occur for a variety of different reasons, including periodontal disease, severe tooth decay, bruxism, smoking, and facial and oral trauma, such as a car accident, a fall at work, or a sports-related injury. No matter how it occurs, and no matter how many teeth are lost in the process, tooth loss has a significant impact on your entire life. If you have experienced tooth loss, it is imperative that those teeth be replaced as soon as possible. There are several different options for replacing missing teeth, including bridges, dentures, and dental implants. Dental implants have quickly become one of the most popular options for replacing missing teeth, but they are not for everyone. At Prosthodontic Dental Group, we perform a thorough consultation to help determine if dental implants are the best option for you.

The Effects of Tooth Loss

Tooth loss affects just about everything you do, diminishing your overall quality of life. Some of these effects are more obvious than others. When you lose your teeth, even just one, eating becomes more difficult. So, too, does your digestion. Your teeth are responsible for chewing food, breaking it down and making the nutrients accessible to the body to absorb. When you are missing teeth, it becomes more difficult to thoroughly break down your food, so your body has to work harder to access nutrients. This can result in malnutrition. Food can also get lodged in the empty spaces and can cause pain as well as increase the risk of tooth decay and gum disease.

Your teeth also play an important role in speech, controlling the flow of air. Tooth loss means that air flows freely, affecting your ability to form certain words and sounds. A lisp can form. The more teeth you lose, the harder it becomes for others to understand you.

The teeth are a critical component in a beautiful smile, which is essential for a great first impression. Tooth loss, particularly at the front of your mouth, affects the quality of your smile. This can also have a major impact on your confidence.

Tooth loss also has a serious impact on your jaw health. Under the gums, the roots of your teeth stimulate the jawbone when you chew. This lets the body know to send the nutrients essential for health and strength. Tooth loss means the message is not quite as strong. As a result, fewer nutrients are sent. The bone begins to weaken. Eventually, the jaw begins to change shape. This can lead to healthy teeth shifting out of proper alignment, resulting in several other issues. You may also notice your cheeks and lips begin to sink in, your skin beginning to sag, and wrinkles starting to form.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are a fairly recent addition to your available options for tooth replacement. They consist of small titanium rods, which are surgically implanted into the jawbone. Once placed, the bone begins to fuse to the implants, a process known as osseointegration. Successful osseointegration turns the implants into stable roots. Abutments, or connectors, are placed on the ends of the implants. Finally, the replacement teeth, called crowns, are used to replace the visible areas of your missing teeth, and are supported by the implants, held securely in place by small screws.

Types of Dental Implants

Dental implants are versatile and can be used in a variety of different situations. To accommodate different needs, there are different types of dental implants:
•  Single tooth implants. A single tooth implant is, as the name suggests, an implant designed to replace a single missing tooth. One implant supports one crown. It is possible to have more than one single tooth implant in your mouth.
•  Implant supported bridges. Implant supported bridges are used in areas of the mouth that have two or more consecutive missing teeth. The number of implants used depends on the number of teeth missing, as well as the condition of your jawbone.
•  Implant supported dentures. An implant supported denture replaces an entire arch of missing teeth. Your replacement teeth rely on 6 to 8 implants for support.

Your Consultation

To determine if dental implants are the best replacement option for you, you first need to have a consultation. During this appointment, we perform a thorough examination of your mouth. Along with visually inspecting your teeth, we also take digital images. The images allow us to see the hidden areas of your mouth under the gum line. We can check the roots of your teeth and the condition of your jawbone. If implants are chosen as the best treatment plan, images can also be used to create the most effective treatment and optimal placement for your implants.

Dental Implant Process

Dental implants require a surgical procedure. The process begins with a local anesthetic and sedation. Sedation allows you to relax and remain calm throughout the duration of your surgery. We make incisions in the gums, exposing the jawbone. Next, holes are drilled into the bone in accordance with the treatment plan. The implants are then placed into the holes and your gums are sutured closed around them. Temporary teeth are placed so that you can resume some normal function while you heal.

Healing from implant surgery can take anywhere from several weeks to several months. We closely monitor your progress to ensure that the bone is fusing properly. Once you have fully healed, we then start the process of creating your permanent restorations. First, we remove the temporary teeth. The abutments are placed on the exposed ends of the implants. Next, impressions of your mouth are taken. These impressions are sent to the dental lab, where your final restorations are designed and then created. It can take a couple of weeks for the restorations to be completed and sent back, so the temporary teeth are set back in place while you wait. When the final restorations are ready, we secure them in place with small screws, leaving you with strong, stable replacement teeth that look, and function, just like your natural teeth.

Why would I want dental implants?

Dental implants are the only option that requires a surgical procedure, and sometimes a lengthy recovery period. So, why would you want to choose this option? The benefits of dental implants far outweigh the temporary discomfort the surgery causes, and these benefits will last a lifetime with proper care. Dental implants restore the functions of your missing teeth and your mouth. They enable you to properly bite and chew your food thoroughly, allowing your body to once again easily access and absorb valuable nutrients. The teeth remain stable while you chew, and there is no worry that they will slip out of place. The restored teeth enable you to control the airflow when you speak, allowing you to communicate more easily. Moreover, because implants feel more natural in the mouth, you do not have to adjust your speech to accommodate them like you would with dentures.

Dental implants provide superior comfort over dentures. A common complaint about dentures is that they are uncomfortable. Their rigid base sits directly on top of your gums, but this tissue was never meant to support teeth, or the pressures exerted on them. Dentures can also rub against the gums, causing painful sores that can make wearing them unbearable. With dental implants, the titanium rods become roots, set firmly in the jawbone, and these provide the support for your new teeth. There is no pressure on the gums, and no uncomfortable rubbing.

Implants are easier to clean. Unlike dentures, they do not need to be removed nightly for special cleaning before cleaning your mouth. Implants are not meant to be removed at all. Instead, they stay securely in your mouth and can be brushed and flossed, just like your natural teeth.

Quite possibly the greatest benefit of dental implants is that they protect the health of your jawbone, stopping and preventing, the bone loss that follows tooth loss. The implants take over the job of the roots, stimulating the jaw when you chew. The messages to your body for nutrients are restored. Where dentures and bridges need to be replaced periodically to accommodate your changing jawbone, dental implants are permanent.

Do I have to be missing teeth now?

Dental implants are designed specifically to replace missing teeth. They can be used whether you are missing a single tooth, a few teeth, or even every last one of your teeth. Tooth loss is one of the most obvious factors that determine your eligibility for dental implants. However, you do not have to be missing teeth right this second. If you know that you will be having one or more teeth extracted, those teeth will need to be replaced. Dental implants can be discussed as an option to restore the tooth or teeth that need to be taken out.

How old do I have to be?

There are many older adults who think that they are too old for dental implants. The truth is that you are never too old. Dental implants can be placed whether you are 30, 55, or 70. As long as you meet the other requirements, dental implants are a real possibility.

While you may never be too old for dental implants, you can be too young. Dental implants are not suitable for children and teenagers. This is because the jaws of the individuals in this age group are still developing and growing. Placing a dental implant in a still growing jaw can lead to serious developmental issues. The jaw typically stops growing in the late teens the to early 20s. If your child or teen has lost a permanent tooth, implants will not be an option at this time. Other options will have to be explored. Once their jaws have fully developed, then implants can be discussed to replace the original restoration.

Is my health condition important?

Dental implants require a surgical procedure. Being in good overall health is critical for ensuring that you avoid complications during surgery and that your recovery goes smoothly. If you are living with any chronic conditions, such as heart disease or diabetes, it is important that these conditions be under control and well managed before undergoing surgery. If they are not under control, your ability to heal properly may be affected. If you have any other oral health issues, including gum disease or tooth decay, these will need to be treated first. Without treatment, bacteria can enter the surgical sites and cause implant failure and other complications. Even if you are in good health, it is important to notify us before surgery if you have a sore throat, feel a cold coming on, or even just feel ill in general. In cases like these, it may be best to reschedule your surgery for a later date to avoid any potential issues.

What if I smoke?

Smoking can severely affect your ability to heal properly following surgery. Smoking, and using other tobacco products causes the flow of blood to slow down. This means that essential healing factors contained within the blood, as well as essential nutrients for oral health are limited. The amount of oxygen found in your blood is also limited. All of these factors slow your ability to heal, which greatly increases your risk for infections and implant failure. Smoking can also dislodge clots at the surgical sites, leaving open wounds for bacterial access. If you are a smoker, it is highly recommended that you quit. If you are unable to quit for good, it will be important for proper healing that you quit for a while prior to your surgical procedure amd through your entire healing process.

What if I waited a while after tooth loss?

Bone loss is a natural occurrence following tooth loss. Without the stimulation of the teeth, the jawbone begins to resorb and grow weak. While dental implants can stop the bone loss that follows tooth loss, you first need to have sufficient bone mass in the jaw for proper osseointegration. Without sufficient bone mass, there is not enough bone to fuse to the implants. This results in weak implants, and a greater risk for implant failure.

It is important to know that even if your jawbone is considered too weak for implants, this does not mean that you will be stuck with a bridge or dentures. There are ways to make implants possible. One option is a bone graft. This is a surgical procedure that takes bone material from either you or a donor and places it in the weakened areas of your jaw. Your existing bone mass fuses with the graft material, restoring the strength to your jawbone. Once you have healed from the bone graft, then you can undergo implant surgery. Another option, if you are missing all of the teeth in a single arch, is the All-on-4® treatment concept. With this treatment, only 4 implants are used instead of the typical 6 to 8. The key to this treatment is not in the number of implants, but their placement. The implants are placed strategically to maximize contact with your existing bone, giving you the greatest chance of success. When you come in for your consultation, we will discuss all of your options with you to find the best solution for your needs.

Dental implants are a very popular treatment for replacing missing teeth and with good reason. Along with restoring the functions of your teeth and your smile, dental implants also help to protect the health of your jawbone, effectively preventing the bone loss that accompanies tooth loss. If you have lost even just one tooth, dental implants may be an option for you. Call Prosthodontic Dental Group at (916) 264-9655 for more information and to schedule your consultation today.
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