Losing a permanent tooth can be traumatic, but not replacing it can cause real problems. Tooth loss is a fact of life for many people, either as they get older or as a result of injury, but luckily a number of really good treatment options exist. In the past, choices were limited to removable bridges and dentures to replace those lost teeth, but implants have now been an accepted method of replacement for more than half a century. This technology offers multiple advantages, including that they can be made to look and feel like real teeth.
Replacing a missing tooth is necessary to maintain the health and position of your other teeth. The gap left by a lost tooth causes the anatomy of your mouth to change. Teeth begin to move, because they are no longer adequately supported by others. This can result in loosening of some teeth and overcrowding of others. If you lose several teeth, it’s even more vital to replace them before you start losing bone mass as a result of resorption. Once that happens, your appearance can begin to change, and your chewing and talking might be affected too.
Dental implants are metal posts inserted surgically into your jawbone at certain positions. Once these fuse with your bone, they act as supports for the replacement teeth. Some options patients have to choose between are:
If you’re only missing one or two teeth in different parts of your mouth, implants can be inserted in position to hold individual replacement teeth. In some cases, it’s possible to perform the entire implantation process in a single visit, while other patients need to have it done over a period of a couple of months. This allows time for the implant to integrate with the bone and the mouth to heal before attaching the tooth or crown. Implants usually last up to 25 years, and while there are possible complications the success rate for single tooth implants is exceptionally good.
A patient with two or more missing teeth in the same part of the mouth might be a good candidate for a supported bridge. This is a similar solution to a regular dental bridge, but it is positioned onto metal implants instead of using natural teeth for support. The design reduces the pressure you might otherwise put on several individual implants that are not connected, spreading it across the whole device. This option is frequently used when the patient doesn’t have enough jawbone to support multiple implants, or if the area where the implant is needed is too close to a nerve or a sinus cavity.
From the viewpoint of dental and bone health, full mouth implants are far superior to dentures, which can cause bone shrinkage from resorption resulting in a collapsed mouth or recessive jaw bone. This is because the implants replace some of the tooth roots, which help to support and stimulate the bone. Attaching the dentures to the implants prevents them from moving around, too, and this makes chewing and speaking more comfortable for many patients. An examination will determine whether you are a candidate for a one-step procedure or if tradition implant surgery will be needed.
To determine whether dental implants are right for you, consult with your dentist to find out exactly what you need, how much it will cost and what process will be used. Generally speaking, implants provide an excellent solution with improved quality of life.
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