What are Dental Implants?
Tooth loss is, unfortunately a widespread problem, and dental implants are regarded as the gold standard for replacing missing teeth. If you have teeth that are failing or have already lost one or more teeth, our dentist Dr. Alexander Larsen might well suggest you consider dental implants.
Why Choose a Dental Implant?
The reason why dental implants are an increasingly popular solution for tooth loss is that they can artificially replace a real tooth root. When you lose your natural tooth, the entire tooth must be removed which includes your tooth root, leaving behind an empty socket. A natural tooth root does far more than just anchor your tooth in place, providing essential stimulation to the bone surrounding it. Every time you bite or chew using your natural teeth, the sensations are transmitted right through the crown of the tooth, into the tooth root and into the bone surrounding the root. These sensations ensure that as old bone cells age and die off they are continually replaced.
When you lose a natural tooth, the sensations are removed resulting in gradual bone resorption. Bone loss destabilizes the teeth adjacent to the gap, affecting your bite, and it can have a huge impact on people that have lost entire arches of teeth and who currently rely on full dentures. Full dentures rest entirely on the gums which are supported by the bony arch underneath. Initially, this bony arch is quite prominent and provides reasonable retention for the denture. As bone is resorbed, the arch becomes flatter and narrower, reducing retention, so it’s harder to keep the denture in place. At this stage, dentures are more likely to slip and shift out of position, especially when eating and talking which can be embarrassing and frustrating. Because the bony arch becomes flatter, it decreases the height between your upper and lower jaws, reducing support for your cheek and lip muscles and resulting in that collapsed-in look that can be unflatteringly and prematurely aging. Dental implants are designed to prevent these undesirable effects, and instead, provide you with teeth that feel and look strong and natural.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
A dental implant consists of a small post or screw made from medical-grade titanium alloy or from a ceramic material. This is inserted into your jawbone during a short surgical procedure, but please don’t worry because we can ensure the surgery is comfortable and pain-free. A single dental implant typically takes an hour or less to place while multiple implants will take a little longer.
Once the implant is in the jawbone, it gradually begins to bond and fuse with the surrounding bone. The implant post is specially treated to encourage this process which is called osseointegration. It takes several months for the process to be completed, after which time the implant post is ready for the implant abutment. The implant abutment attaches to the post and is used to support the implant crown, bridge or denture.
Dental implant treatment is very versatile, as you can replace multiple missing teeth in the same region of the mouth with an implant-supported bridge, using just two or more implants, so you don’t need to replace each individual tooth with a dental implant. Dental implants are excellent for people who are entirely edentulous in their upper or lower arches, restoring teeth with an implant-supported bridge that is firmly screwed or cemented in place, or with a removable implant denture that clips onto the dental implants, but which is easily removed for cleaning.
Who Can Have Dental Implants?
The great thing about dental implants is that treatment is suitable for most people. You will need to have a consultation with Dr. Larsen, during which your dental health and general health will be discussed. You do need to be generally healthy for this treatment, but so long as your teeth and jaws have finished growing and developing, age isn’t a barrier. In fact, it is a treatment that has helped numerous older people, including those in their seventies or eighties.
One thing Dr. Larsen will need to examine is the quality and quantity of your jawbone which is done using advanced imaging. You must have a certain amount of healthy bone for the implants to be successfully inserted. If you lost teeth quite some time ago, or if tooth loss occurred because or advanced gum disease, you might well be missing some bone quantity, but this can be restored with bone grafting. A bone graft can restore bone in areas where it is deficient and is a highly successful process. Once Dr. Larsen has fully assessed your dental and medical health, he can begin planning your implant treatment and will discuss which implant options are most suitable for your needs. Some dental practices refer their implant patients to other clinics, but all treatment is completed ‘in-house’ here at Gentle Dental Arts, so you won’t need to travel elsewhere for your implant teeth.
What to Expect After Having Dental Implants
Our dental team will make sure the entire implant procedure is as smooth and as comfortable as possible. Afterward, you might feel some minor discomfort and swelling, but many people are pleasantly surprised to find this is minimal. Initially, your dental implants will need time to heal after placement, but if your missing teeth are highly visible or when multiple teeth are lost, we can make temporary teeth for use while your implants heal and integrate with your jawbone. If you currently wear dentures, it could be possible to adjust these for use during this healing period.
Once healing is complete, your new implant teeth are fabricated. We take enormous care to ensure they look and feel natural and comfortable, providing you with teeth that make it easy to talk, eat and chew food confidently. The entire process might take several months to finish, but treatment is well worth the effort, not least because your implant teeth should last for many years to come. One thing you must do is to look after your beautiful new teeth, but this is easy, and we will show you how to do it! Your regular dental checkups and hygiene appointments are crucial for maintaining strong and healthy dental implants. In between appointments make sure you clean your teeth as directed, at least twice a day. Contact us for more information!