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Why Dental Implants?

Your teeth are an essential feature of your mouth, with a variety of important responsibilities. When you lose your teeth, whether it is just one or several, it can have a significant impact on every aspect of your life. There are some different causes of tooth loss, but no matter how it happens, those missing teeth need to be replaced. Traditionally, missing teeth have been replaced with options such as bridges and dentures. At Prosthodontic Dental Group, we offer another alternative, dental implants.

Causes of Tooth Loss

Periodontal or gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss. Periodontal disease starts when oral bacteria and plaque irritate the gum tissue. This triggers an inflammatory response, and the gums swell. Redness and swelling are the earliest warning signs, but they often go unnoticed. Untreated, the gums start to pull away from the teeth, leaving pockets that bacteria and other debris fall into. The bacteria begin attacking periodontal ligaments and your jawbone, weakening them. The teeth become loose and eventually fall out.

Periodontal disease is not the only cause of tooth loss. Other causes include:
•  Facial and oral trauma, such as those caused by an auto accident, a sports injury or a fall.
•  Severe tooth decay. When tooth decay has severely compromised the structure of the tooth, a crown may not be possible. The tooth may instead need to be extracted.
•  Smoking.
•  Grinding and clenching the teeth, a condition is known as bruxism.

Effects of Tooth Loss

Tooth loss affects every part of your life. One of the most obvious effects is the impact that tooth loss has on your smile. While losing a single tooth toward the back of the mouth may not be apparent, missing one, or several, at the front of the mouth is quite obvious. You may become self-conscious and start hiding your smile. Alternatively, you may try not to smile at all. These actions can significantly affect the type of impression you leave on those around you.

Tooth loss, no matter how many teeth you lose, affects your ability to eat. The teeth are responsible for biting and chewing. Chewing breaks down your food to make nutrients accessible in the digestive process. When you cannot completely break down your food, the body has to work harder to access those nutrients. Food can also get lodged in the empty spaces, which can cause pain as well as increase your risk of developing tooth decay and gum disease.

Teeth are responsible for controlling airflow when you speak. Without this control, words and sounds become for difficult to form. You may also develop a lisp.

Tooth loss has an impact under the gums as well. The teeth stimulate the bone, which triggers the body to send the nutrients it requires to stay healthy and strong. When tooth loss occurs, the stimulation lessens. As a result, fewer nutrients are sent. The bone starts to grow weak and change shape. Your remaining teeth begin shifting out of their natural alignment, leading to issues such as bruxism and jaw pain. Changes in bone shape also impact your facial appearance. Your cheeks and lips sink in; the skin begins to sag and wrinkles form. All of these effects age you dramatically.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are a treatment for replacing missing teeth. They consist of three major components, the implant, the abutment and the crown. The implant itself is a small titanium rod that is surgically implanted into the jawbone. Through a process called osseointegration, the bone fuses to the implant, turning it into a stable root. The abutment is a connector that is placed at the top of the implant, and the crown is the replacement of the visible portion of a missing tooth and is supported directly by the implant. After you have completely healed, you are left with strong, stable replacement teeth that look and function exactly like your natural teeth.

A Brief History

While modern dental implants have their roots in the research of a Swedish orthopedic surgeon in the 1950s, dental implants date back to as early as 600 AD. Archaeologists have discovered several ancient tooth replacement treatments that involved implanting an object such as stone, wire, seashells, and even iron into the jawbone where a tooth once stood.

The implants we know today were an accidental discovery. Orthopedic surgeon, Per-Ingvar Brånenmark was studying bone healing and regeneration in the early 1950s. He had implanted a small titanium cylinder into the femur of a rabbit. When he went to remove it, he found that the bone had fused to it, and he could not easily take it out. This discovery of osseointegration spurred Brånenmark to conduct more research. He successfully placed the first dental implants in 1965 and went on to commercialize them in 1978. Even today, research and development are continually happening, and new ways to make implants better are being discovered.

Types of Dental Implants

Dental implants are a versatile treatment, and can easily be customized to meet a variety of different needs. There are several different types of dental implants:
•  Single tooth implants. This type of implant is used to replace a single missing tooth. One implant is placed in the jaw, and it is used to support a single crown. It is possible to have several single-tooth implants in your mouth if you are missing single teeth in different areas of the mouth.
•  Multiple tooth implants. Also called an implant supported bridge, this type of implant is used to replace two or more consecutive missing teeth in a given area of the mouth. The exact number of implants needed to support your crowns depends upon the number of missing teeth and the health of your jawbone.
•  Implant supported dentures. This type of implant uses 6 to 8 implants to support an entire arch of replacement teeth, providing an alternative to a full denture.
•  All-on-4® treatment concept. This treatment can be used in the event that you do not have sufficient bone mass in your jaw to support the implants necessary for an implant supported denture. Instead, this implant relies on 4 strategically placed implants that make the most out of your existing bone mass for success. This treatment also helps to avoid the need for a bone graft.

The Implant Procedure

Getting your implants involves a surgical procedure. Before undergoing surgery, we first perform a thorough evaluation, making sure that implants are the best option for you. Along with a visual inspection of your mouth, we also take digital images. The images allow us to see the jawbone and make sure that there is sufficient mass to support the implants. Images also allow us to generate a customized treatment plan and determine the best possible implant placement for optimal success.

On the day of your surgery, we begin with a local anesthetic, along with sedation. Next, incisions are created in the gums, exposing the bone. We drill holes into the bone by your treatment plan and place the implants. The gums are stitched closed, and temporary teeth are placed. You then go home to heal.

Healing can often take several weeks to several months, depending upon the number of implants you had placed. As you heal, we will monitor your progress. After you have fully healed, we begin the process of making your permanent crowns. We remove the temporary teeth and place the abutments. We then take impressions of the mouth. The impressions are sent to a dental lab, where the teeth are designed and created. Once they are ready, we then secure them into place with tiny screws. The result is a permanent, stable, beautiful restoration that looks and functions just like natural teeth.

Why get dental implants?

The idea of surgery, and the recovery, can be off-putting to many dental patients. The benefits and results of dental implants, however, far outweigh having to undergo surgery:
•  With successful osseointegration, you are left with strong, stable teeth that both function, and look, just like your natural teeth.
•  Implants provide a permanent solution to tooth loss. After tooth loss, the bone begins to weaken. While traditional tooth replacement treatments, including bridges and dentures, replace the visible surface of your missing teeth, they cannot stop the bone loss that is occurring below the gum line. The jaw gradually begins to change shape. As a result, most traditional restorations need to be replaced approximately every 7 years. Dental implants may be more expensive initially, but they are designed to last a lifetime. They will not need to be replaced unless an accident occurs, such as a car accident, that can break the crowns and compromise the implant.
•  Implants provide superior comfort. Traditional replacement options, particularly partial and full dentures, have a common complaint of being uncomfortable. This is because the rigid acrylic resin base of the denture rests directly on the gums. The gums were never made to support teeth and the pressures that are exerted on them daily. And, as the jaw begins to alter its shape, the denture may no longer fit properly. This can cause the denture to rub against your sensitive gum tissue, leaving behind painful sores. With implants, your new crowns are supported directly by the implants, which sit securely in the jawbone. The bone is ideal for supporting the teeth. Implants are secure, and will not place pressure on the gums or rub the tissue to cause sores.
•  Implants are easy to care for. Another common complaint of dentures is that they take a lot of effort to maintain. They need to be removed every night and cleaned thoroughly before being left to soak overnight while you sleep. After cleaning your dentures, then you need to clean your mouth. Going to bed quickly turns into a nightly chore. Dental implants can, and should, be treated just like your natural teeth. It is important that you brush twice a day and floss daily. You should also maintain regular dental visits for cleanings and exams. This should be done if you have one implant, or all of your teeth have been replaced by implants.
•  Enjoy all of your favorite foods. While modern dentures are a great improvement over older styles, dentures still maintain the same basic design. Replacement teeth set into a base that is meant to be supported by the gums. Suction, and sometimes denture adhesive, can help to keep the teeth in place, but it is still possible that they can become loose when you eat. This can not only lead to pain, but an embarrassing situation as well. There is no worry about loose teeth or teeth that fall out when you eat with dental implants. Instead, your teeth are held securely in place. You can enjoy all of your favorite foods without worry.
•  They prevent the need for altering the structure of healthy teeth. Dental bridges use crowns for support. The crowns are designed to anchor on to the healthy teeth adjacent to the gap. In order to place crowns, the teeth need to be reduced in size, which involves removing perfectly healthy enamel. With dental implants, the crowns are supported on the titanium rods. This completely eliminates the need to alter perfectly healthy teeth.
•  They help keep you looking young. Tooth loss, and the bone loss that inevitably follows, cause the lips and cheeks to sink in. Along with this sunken appearance, the skin that the teeth and bones once filled out begins to sag. Wrinkles form around the eyes. Suddenly, you have aged several years. Dental implants help to maintain your facial shape and keep your cheeks filled out, restoring the youthfulness to your face.
•  They help to protect the integrity of your jawbone. The roots of your teeth are important for stimulating the jawbone. When you chew, this stimulation causes the body to send essential nutrients that are required for optimal jaw health. When you lose your teeth, however, this stimulation begins to lessen. Therefore, fewer nutrients are sent. Without proper nutrition, the bone begins to resorb and weaken. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement treatment that not only restores your teeth above the gum line but below it as well. The titanium rods that are implanted into the jaw eventually become like your missing tooth roots. When you chew, the rods stimulate your bone in a similar fashion, triggering the body to continue sending nutrients.
•  Greater confidence. Many individuals who wear dentures spend their days worrying about their dentures coming loose or falling out. Dental implants are held securely in place, the implants by your jaw and the teeth by screws to the implants. With no worry of your teeth falling out, you can smile confidently.

No matter how tooth loss occurs, and how many teeth you lose, the event can greatly impact your entire life. With dental implants, we can help to restore the functions of your mouth, its health, and the appearance of your smile. Call Prosthodontic Dental Group at (916) 264-9655 today at to schedule your consultation and find out just what dental implants can do for you.
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