Missing teeth can significantly affect the aesthetics, function, and health of your mouth. It may be difficult to smile, speak, and/or chew certain foods. In addition, the remaining natural teeth can shift resulting in positional and bite issues. Of all the solutions dentistry has to replace missing teeth, dental implants provide the longest lasting results. Implants have a documented success rate of over 95% and preserve the underlying bone that naturally deteriorates when a tooth is lost.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant takes the shape of a small, screw-shaped post (titanium or ceramic) that replaces the root portion of a missing tooth. The surgical procedure used to place an implant is relatively minor and routine, often requiring only local anesthesia. After a healing period of three to four months, a crown that is custom-made to match your natural teeth is placed onto the implant.
How does the dental implant process work?
First, we will have you undergo a cone beam computed tomography (CBCT) scan. This 3-D image will show detailed anatomical landmarks (sinus and nerve locations) and bone volume and density, thereby allowing us to determine whether you are a suitable candidate for implant placement. It also allows for accurate virtual planning of the ideal implant location.
Next, during a consultation appointment, we will review the scan results with you and address any questions or concerns you may have.
During a minor surgical procedure, the area will be anesthetized and the dental implant inserted into the jawbone in the space vacated by the missing tooth. Depending on how much bone is present, a bone graft may be added to better support the implant. The bone is then allowed to heal and fuse to the implant for approximately three to four months before the final crown is attached.
What are my options to replace teeth with implants?
1) Replace One Tooth: When you are missing one tooth, a single implant is inserted to replace the root portion of that tooth; a crown then goes on top to resemble an actual tooth. An implant will never decay or need root canal treatment and feels just like the tooth that was there. This treatment option has the highest success rate, making it the best long-term investment for replacing a single missing tooth.
2) Replace Multiple Teeth: When you have multiple teeth missing, implants provide an ideal replacement option. Since implants can support fixed bridgework, you may not need one implant for every missing tooth. For example, if you are missing three teeth in a row, we can place two implants, one on either side of the gap, and a crown in between with no implant underneath. This way, you will not need to use any natural teeth as bridge supports, which could weaken them and make them more susceptible to decay.
3) Replace All Teeth Permanently: Implants can also support an entire set of upper or lower replacement teeth that are fixed into the mouth and never removed. Sometimes, the new teeth can be supported by as few as four implants. In cases where bone density and volume have deteriorated, five or six implants may be needed to support an upper or lower arch of teeth. Dental implant supported replacement teeth preserve your jawbone, will not move uncomfortably, and often last for an extended period of time.
4) Support Removable Dentures: Implants can also make removable dentures more comfortable, effective and healthier to wear. Traditional dentures rest on the gums and place pressure on the underlying bone surface. This can accelerate bone loss such that the jaw shrinks and the dentures move, particularly on the lower jaw. In order to remedy this, dentists can attach a removable denture onto several implants, transferring the forces into the bone instead of onto the surface. This prevents dentures from moving while you eat and speak and simultaneously preserves the bone.
How long do dental implants usually last?
With proper maintenance and professional care, dental implants can last over 25 years. The crown, however, may need to be replaced after 10 to 15 years due to wear and tear. Implant location also plays a role in longevity. Generally speaking, implant crowns in the back of the mouth receive heavier chewing forces and tend to wear down more quickly than those towards the front.
How do I care for and maintain my implants?
There are two primary ways an implant can fail once it has successfully integrated with the bone: 1) poor oral hygiene and/or 2) excessive biting forces. Poor oral hygiene can lead to a destructive bacterial infection called peri-implantitis. Brushing and flossing your teeth daily, combined with routine professional cleanings, can prevent this. Excessive biting forces can originate from either a habit of clenching or grinding your teeth or an insufficient number of implants support your bite. If you have a habit of grinding or clenching your teeth, a nightguard is strongly recommended to protect your implants.