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Everybody deserves to have a smile they’re proud to show off. However, if you’ve experienced tooth loss, this is easier said than done. Anything from a sports injury to periodontal disease can cause teeth to fall out, resulting in gaps in your smile. Not only does this negatively impact self-confidence, but it may also lead to oral health problems. Possible consequences of missing teeth include:
Even just one missing tooth increases your risk of gum and jawbone problems, which can cause major facial structure changes. Fortunately, you can prevent tooth loss from developing into more serious issues through dental implants. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about dental implants, from how they work to where you can get them.
A traditional dental implant is a tooth replacement designed to look, feel and function just like natural teeth. It’s made up of a small, titanium fixture that’s implanted directly into the jawbone, where it will function as a root for the artificial tooth. If any adjacent teeth are blocking the bone, they may need to be extracted first. Once the fixture is in place, it will fuse with the jawbone over a span of around three to six months. When the fixture is ready, it’s covered with a dental crown or restoration that matches the surrounding teeth.
Now that you know what dental implants are, you’re probably wondering: how does the process work? Implant dentistry can be broken down into the following stages:
First, Drs. Godat and King will perform a check-up to determine whether dental implants are right for you. After performing an oral exam and taking X-rays and measurements, our team can create a custom treatment plan that caters to your needs. Some patients may need another procedure (like tooth extraction or bone grafting) first — others can go straight to the surgery.
Before installing the implant, Drs. Godat and King will administer a local anesthetic to numb the area. Next, they’ll make a small cut in the gum that exposes the underlying bone. Finally, they’ll implant the titanium root straight into the bone tissue. To help the root fuse smoothly, our team will recommend an after-care routine that includes using ice packs, eating soft foods and rinsing with saltwater. We’ll also schedule regular follow-up appointments, which helps lower the risk of infection.
When the titanium root is secured in the jawbone, you’re ready for the final step: the restoration (or crown placement). To create the restoration, Drs. Godat and King will take impressions of your gum tissue. These will be used to create an artificial crown that matches the color and shape of your teeth. Generally, the crown is made of porcelain. Once it’s ready, we’ll carefully place it over the implant, leaving you with a bright, healthy smile.
When it comes to tooth replacements, dental implants offer several unique advantages that make them a popular choice among patients with tooth loss. Here are a few of the top benefits.
What makes dental implants unique is how seamlessly they integrate in your mouth. Before installing the restoration, Drs. Godat and King will customize it to match the exact color and shape of your other teeth. As a result, implants are virtually indistinguishable from real teeth.
Because they’re designed to emulate actual teeth, dental implants don’t require any special cleaning routine. To take care of them, all you need to do is brush and floss as usual. You should also keep up with your regular dental appointments.
Dental implants remain permanently in place, meaning they’re a life-long solution. As an added perk, implants don’t decay like regular teeth might, so you don’t have to worry about developing cavities. Over time, it’s possible that the restoration covering the fixture will wear down — however, Drs. Godat and King can resolve this with a quick appointment.
Unlike other artificial teeth solutions (such as dentures), dental implants don’t accidentally slip out of your mouth. The implants are essentially anchored to your gums, making them highly stable. Thus, you don’t have to worry about any embarrassing moments or slippage while you’re talking. Dental implants also make it easier to chew — while you have to avoid certain substances with dentures (such as sticky or hard foods), implants let you enjoy all your favorite foods.
Did you know that every time your upper and lower teeth connect, your jawbone gets stimulated? This stimulation helps keep your jawbone in good shape. However, if teeth are missing, the jawbone does not get its regular amount of stimulation, causing the bone to deteriorate. If this isn’t addressed, you can develop bone loss that alters your facial shape. Dental implants fill in gaps and replicate your bite force, which helps keep your jawbone healthy.
From their natural appearance to their permanent nature, there are many benefits to dental implants. However, not everybody is an eligible candidate. To receive traditional dental implants, you should meet the following conditions:
Good dental health is essential for implants. If you have diseased gum tissue or a deteriorated jawbone, your gums and the underlying bone will not be strong enough to support the implant. During a consultation, Drs. Godat and King can examine your mouth and determine whether you’re eligible for implants.
While some patients might not be eligible at all, others may need to undergo different treatments before receiving implants. For example, if you have gum disease, you will need periodontal treatment first. Similarly, if you have a deteriorated jawbone, you’ll have to fortify it through a bone preservation or bone grafting procedure. Bone preservation keeps your jawbone strong by quickly filling in gaps left by missing teeth, while bone grafting strengthens an already weakened jaw structure by borrowing bone from the patient or a tissue bank.
Finally, to be eligible for standard dental implants, you should be missing only one or two teeth. If you don’t meet one or more of these criteria, you may be eligible for another type of dental implant.
As mentioned earlier, traditional implants rely on permanent, titanium fixtures to fill in missing teeth. However, depending on your needs and oral health, they may not be the best choice for you. Here are a few other types of dental implants to consider.
Patients who are missing multiple teeth don’t have enough underlying jawbone to support several dental implants. However, they may be eligible for All-On-4 implants instead. In this procedure, all the teeth are replaced by artificial solutions. To do this, Drs. Godat and King will install just four implants — two for the upper teeth and two for the lower teeth. While you do have to remove any remaining natural teeth, you get to enjoy all the benefits of traditional implants.
Since all teeth are removed, All-On-4 dental implants are usually paired with a Teeth-In-A-Day procedure. With traditional implants, you have to wait up to six months before covering the titanium root with a false tooth. Teeth-In-A-Day, however, lets you enjoy natural-looking, artificial teeth immediately. After the four implants are installed, Drs. Godat and King will add a temporary restoration. Once the implants fuse with the bone, this temporary solution is swapped out with a permanent one.
Many people who are not eligible for traditional dental implants turn to removable dentures. However, dentures are usually not an ideal solution because they’re prone to slippage, which can be embarrassing in social situations. Implant supported dentures offer a cross between the two treatments, combining the removable natures of dentures with the durability of implants.
In this solution, the titanium implants serve as anchors for removable dental prosthetics. Patients can easily attach dentures, then take them out whenever they need to be cleaned. In addition to filling in gaps, implant supported dentures help preserve jawbone strength (much like traditional implants).
While dental implants are supposed to be discrete, this isn’t always the case. Over time, it’s possible for gums to recede, causing your implants to become exposed. If you’ve dealt with gum recession in the past or are worried about experiencing it in the future, you might prefer Zirconia dental implants. Instead of titanium, Zirconia dental implants are made of biocompatible ceramic. As a result, they resist both corrosion and bacteria. Plus, the implant is white, which prevents a gray sheen from coming through if you have thin or receding gums.
The process of installing Zirconia implants is similar to that of traditional implants. Drs. Godat and King will start by determining the optimal location of implants using 3D imaging technology. Then, they’ll install the implant into the jawbone, where it will fuse over the course of a few months. Since the procedures are very similar, most patients who are eligible for Zirconia implants can also get titanium implants. Our team can help you decide which is the best option.
Dental implants are not the only solution for replacing missing teeth. Many patients rely on the following options instead:
As you already know, traditional dentures are removable appliances. You may pick between full dentures (which replace all teeth) and partial dentures (which replace some teeth). Dental bridges, meanwhile, are fixed restorations used to fill in one or two gaps. The teeth next to the gap are shaved down and fitted with caps that carry an artificial tooth.
While both dentures and dental bridges can effectively conceal gaps, dental implants — whether they’re traditional implants or another type — are generally preferable. This is because implants are more durable, longer lasting and easier to maintain. They’re also less susceptible to issues like breakage, which means they require fewer dental check-ups.
Here are a few frequently asked questions about dental implants.
Compared to other tooth replacement treatments, dental implants have relatively few downsides. Like any surgical procedure, they carry the risk of minor inflammation and short-term discomfort. Drs. Godat and King can discuss the pros and cons of implants and answer any questions you may have about the process.
The cost of dental implants varies depending on your needs. For example, if you have a weakened jawbone, you’ll need a bone grafting or preservation procedure as well as the implantation. Generally, costs cover the following:
Drs. Godat and King can walk you through the different stages and break down costs.
If you’re interested in dental implants, it’s important to work with a reputable, experienced team. At Periodontal Associates of Memphis, we offer board certified periodontists with years of experience in helping patients improve their smiles through implant dentistry.
Are you looking to restore your confident with high-quality, natural looking artificial teeth? Our team is here to help. During an initial consultation, Dr. Mitchel S. Godat and Dr. Grant King can evaluate your teeth and determine whether you’re eligible for dental implants or whether you need a bone grafting or preservation procedure first. They can also give advice on which type of implant is best for your needs.
If you move forward with dental implants, our team will create custom, artificial teeth to fill in the gaps in your smile. Then, we’ll perform an expert installation, resulting in a seamless tooth replacement that you can enjoy for the rest of your life. Interested in learning more? Feel free to call us or request an appointment today!
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