Tooth loss from injury, wear, or disease affects much more than the appearance of your smile. Missing teeth can cause a significant blow to your overall health. Until the introduction of dental implants, those with several missing teeth had the choice of a partial denture or a bridge. Both options can damage adjacent teeth.
Those who needed an entire upper or lower arch replaced were limited to dentures that could shift or slip out of place. Dental implants provide a welcome alternative to partials, bridges, and dentures because the resulting restorations look, feel and function more like natural teeth.
The Importance of Replacing Missing Teeth
According to the American College of Prosthodontics, 178 million of us have at least one tooth missing. While you may not initially be too concerned about having that additional space in your mouth, it’s important to realize that a missing tooth, even a tooth that does not impact your smile, can cause significant issues over time. Consider the following potential consequences:
Teeth are Essential to Jawbone Health
While your jawbone supports your teeth, your teeth also support the health of the bone beneath them. A missing tooth leaves an area of your jawbone unstimulated, resulting in bone loss. Bone loss can significantly affect the structure of your face as you age.
Missing Teeth Can Cause Overeruption
When a tooth is missing, the tooth above or below the space will move up or down to fill the gap in a process called overeruption. When teeth over-erupt, the shift exposes the root structure and increases the risk of tooth decay.
Missing Teeth Can Cause Misalignment
If space created by a missing tooth is not filled, the teeth adjacent to the hole can shift to fill the space. Teeth that move out of alignment can be more difficult to care for. Misaligned teeth pose a greater risk of developing decay. If the gums no longer fit along the gum line, the risk of periodontal disease also increases.
Tooth Loss Can Interfere with Your Bite
When teeth shift, changes in the way your teeth come together can cause strain on the temporomandibular joints and facial muscles. Increased muscle tension can cause headaches, facial pain, unnatural tooth wear, and temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ).
Tooth Loss Could Accelerate the Appearance of Facial Aging
Bone resorption and the loss of bone mass can affect your appearance. You may eventually notice that your lips begin to appear shrunken or The loss of structural support to your face created by tooth loss can cause premature wrinkles to develop on your cheeks and around your mouth.
Securing Your Smile with Dental Implants
A dental implant replaces the root of a missing tooth and is then used to secure a dental crown, bridgework, or dentures. While dental implants offer significant advantages, they are not a one-size-fits-all solution. While this replacement solution may not be right for everyone, you may want to consider dental implants if you meet the following criteria:
- You are an adult whose jaw has reached full growth
- Have a good overall oral health
- Are against the idea of wearing partials or dentures
- Are in good general health with no health conditions that would affect healing
- Have adequate bone density to secure the implanted fixture
- Are a candidate for a bone graft if there is not sufficient bone density
Understanding the Basics of Implant Dentistry
Dental implants are considered one of the biggest advancements in dental restoration in recent decades. Dental implants can be used to place a single tooth, replace several adjacent teeth, or secure a complete set of dentures. To better appreciate how dental implants work, it may be helpful to understand how they are constructed. A dental implant has three parts, including:
The fixture is the part of the implant that is embedded below your gum line. Fixtures are typically made of titanium, a durable, biocompatible alloy that has the ability to fuse with bone in a process called osseointegration. This screwlike appliance is inserted into the bone under local or general anesthetic.
The small portion of an implant that sits near the gum line. The abutment is attached to the fixture once the healing process is complete. The abutment is the part of your implant that will hold the prosthesis. Crowns and bridges are commonly screwed or cemented to the abutment; dentures typically snapped onto the abutment to keep them securely in place.
The Dental Prosthesis
This is the functional, cosmetic part of the implant that replaces missing teeth. Prosthetic teeth are painstakingly crafted to blend with your natural teeth. The prosthesis can take the form of a single tooth, a bridge to replace consecutive teeth, or a denture to replace upper or lower teeth. Single teeth and dental bridges are permanent. Dentures can either be attached permanently to the abutment or the abutments can be used to provide stability to removable dentures.
The number of office visits needed to complete restoration will depend on several factors, including the number of implants needed and the condition of the jaw bone. In most cases, dentists will provide a bridge or a temporary denture so implant patients can smile confidently while their mouth heals between visits. Full healing can take 4-6 months.
Implant Dentistry Preserves Bone Health
Bone needs stimulation to stay healthy. The lack of bone stimulation from tooth loss decreases bone width by as much as 25 percent within the first year and decreases bone height significantly within the next few years. Whether you immediately qualify for dental implants will generally be determined by the bone mass in your jaw.
While dental implants fuse with bone and prevent future bone loss, for those who have experienced significant bone loss, bone grafting, either with natural or artificial bone, may be necessary prior to place dental implants. The good news is that investing in dental implants can prevent future bone loss an preserve bone volume. While grafting may add an additional step to the process, it is sometimes necessary to ensure successful implantation.
For those who are not considered ideal candidates for implantation of the more commonly used endosteal dental implants, Subperiosteal dental implants may be preferable. Subperiosteal implants are placed over the bone but under the gums, sitting over the jawbone like a saddle. The procedure can typically be performed with a local anesthesia and healing time is a bit faster.
Dental Implants May Be More Cost-Effective than You Realized
Many people still mistakenly believe that dental implants are unduly expensive. Realistically, the cost of a dental implant for a single tooth is quite comparable to the cost of a fixed bridge. While a dental bridge compromises the structure of adjacent teeth, a dental implant does not. When compared to the repeated cost of replacing a bridge on the average of every 7-15 years, or dentures every 5-7 years, dental implants have been shown to be a financially sound decision.
Learn More About Dental Implants
Dental implants feel and function like your original teeth while preserving the health and beauty of your smile. For a complimentary implant dentistry consultation in Oceanside CA, contact North Coast Dental Excellence. We are committed to comfortable, affordable, personalized care.