If you’ve lost a permanent tooth due to accident or decay, you know what a hassle that can be. It’s harder to chew on that side, and the gap where the tooth used to be can make you reluctant to smile.
What you may not be aware of is that once a tooth is gone, the bone underneath begins to deteriorate. If the process goes on long enough, it can lead to you looking prematurely aged.
That bone loss a gradual but inevitable process – unless you replace that missing tooth with a dental implant.
About Dental Implants
Implants aren’t exactly new. There’s evidence to suggest that as early as 600 AD, the Mayans used pieces of shell to replace missing teeth. But implants have come a very long way since then, as you’d suspect.
A dental implant consists of two parts: the implant itself, and the crown (artificial tooth) that is attached to the implant.
The implant is a small but extremely strong metal screw, usually made of titanium or another metal that won’t react in the body. The implant is inserted through the gum into bone where the tooth is missing. Essentially, the implant replaces the tooth root. After a period of time, usually about six months, the implant is firmly anchored by bone that has grown around and fused to it.
Since the implant functions like a tooth root, it stimulates the bone and encourages it to grow. The stimulation of your restored chewing pressure stops the bone loss process in that area.
Once the implant is secure, the crown is attached to the screw. The result is a very strong, secure replacement for the missing tooth that is undetectable by a casual observer. And, dental implants restore nearly 100 percent of your normal chewing power. They’re the most lifelike and functional option for tooth replacement.
Who can have a dental implant?
Since implants are anchored by the underlying bone, the thickness and strength of the bone are the most important factors. Since the bone begins to deteriorate once a tooth is lost, the sooner you replace the missing tooth with an implant the better.
Digital X-rays will allow Dr. Hurcomb to evaluate the thickness and density of your underlying bone. If the bone isn’t thick or strong enough, it can be strengthened through a surgical process called bone grafting. Bone grafting can restore the bone enough to allow an implant to be successful. However, there is a healing period while the donor bone integrates with yours and additional cost for the procedure.
Another important consideration is the health of your gums and your general health. Gum disease with active infection has to be completely cleared before the implant is placed, Heavy smoking, diabetes, and other conditions may lead to poor gum healing after the implant is placed and cause it to fail.
Do you do the implant surgery?
Dental implants require two procedures – placing the implant, and designing, fabricating, and “loading” the crown onto the implant once it’s ready. Tulip Tree Dental will refer you to a highly qualified oral surgeon to have the implant placed. We’ll design, fabricate, and load your new tooth onto the implant once it’s firmly supported.
How long do dental implants last?
The metal implant itself should last for decades, if not for the rest of your life. The crown is subject to the same stress and wear and tear as a dental crown that’s placed over one of your natural teeth. The lifespan of a crown depends on a number of things, but yours should last at least 10 years with normal use.
Can I have more than one tooth replaced?
Yes! Two or more dental implants can anchor dental bridgework, and a series of implants can even anchor a full “arch,” or row, of teeth securely. People who have lost one or both arches of teeth can now have modern dentures that never come out, never move around, and can be cleaned just like natural teeth. Dental implant-supported dentures are the preferred choice for people who are candidates for implants.
If you’re interested in exploring whether dental implants are the right option to one replace or more missing teeth, call our South Bend, IN dental office at 574-208-5668 to schedule an appointment. Or, use our online scheduling application to send us a message. We’ll schedule a day and time that works best for you to meet with Dr. Hurcomb and determine whether dental implants are the right choice for you.