Whenever you lose a tooth, the biting forces change on the teeth next to the space, causing them to shift. Opposing teeth may even begin to extrude out of the socket, which means they too could eventually be lost. Also, as your bite changes, it gets more difficult to chew your food, and you may suffer damage to your jaw joint. It’s also much harder to clean teeth that have shifted; harmful plaque and tartar collect in the new hard to-reach places created by the shifting, causing tooth decay and periodontal disease.
As you can see, it’s critical that we replace a lost tooth. An excellent option for replacing a missing tooth is an artificial tooth secured by a dental implant. Implants are titanium cylinders that are surgically placed in your jaw to serve as artificial tooth roots. Attaching a replacement tooth to a dental implant allows us to avoid placing a bridge. Bridges require that we prepare the adjacent natural teeth, and that weakens them substantially.
Dental implants and porcelain crowns are practically indistinguishable from your natural teeth, and they fit so securely that you won’t even notice it when you chew and speak. When we place dental implants, it’s not necessary for us to alter the structure of the adjacent teeth, so their strength and integrity is maintained. Also, a dental implant replaces the roots of a missing tooth, which helps to fend off the bone loss that occurs when a tooth is missing. In essence, an implant is the next best thing to your natural tooth.
Start-to-finish, the procedure may require several months to complete, because it can take about three to four months for the dental implants to fuse to your bone tissue through a process called osseointegration.
A dental implant won’t work for you if you aren’t in good general health. Your gums and jaw bone must be healthy enough to support the implant, and you must be meticulous about your daily home care routine. You’ll also need to visit us up to four times a year for cleanings.
We won’t recommend dental implants if you suffer from a chronic illness such as diabetes, as this can interfere with healing. And if you are a smoker, you may not be a good candidate for a dental implant; smokers are at greater risk for gum disease, and gum disease weakens the bone and soft tissue needed to support the implant.
If you’re interested in replacing a missing tooth with a dental implant, we will perform a thorough evaluation to determine whether your health and lifestyle make you a good candidate for this relatively new approach to restorative dentistry.