Missing teeth can make you feel self-conscious when eating, talking or smiling, and create oral health problems for you as well. But today, a dental implant procedure can give you a replacement tooth that looks, feels and functions as naturally as the original. Here's how to decide if a dental implant is right for you.
What Is a Dental Implant?
An implant is an artificial tooth "root" surgically placed in your mouth, according to the Academy of General Dentistry. Made of metallic (titanium) and bone-like ceramic materials that are compatible with your jaw, implants fuse with your bone to support a crown, bridge or full denture. The American Academy of Periodontology (AAP) describes two types of implants: An endosteal implant is the most common, and is placed into the bone, whereas a subperiosteal implant is positioned on the bone for patients who have inadequate bone height or can't wear traditional dentures.
Advantages of Implants
Because of their many advantages, the American Dental Association (ADA) says more than 5.5 million implants are fulfilled annually by dentists in the U.S. Here's why they're so popular:
- Implants don't slip or shift, giving you the same stability and security as your natural teeth.
- Implants are cleaned in the same way as your natural teeth, so there's no need to take them out at night for cleaning or soaking.
- Implants don't rely on neighboring teeth for support; therefore, no tooth structure is lost, as is necessary when fabricating a bridge.
- Implants prevent the shifting of nearby teeth, preserving jawbone and the contour of your face.
- Implants are an ideal cosmetic solution to missing teeth, allowing you to chew and speak with ease.
Are You a Good Candidate for an Implant?
If your gums are healthy, you have enough bone to support an implant and you're in good general health, the AAP considers you an ideal candidate for a dental implant. Nonetheless, your jawbone can be built-up prior to the dental implant procedure if your bone height is not adequate to support an implant. Keep in mind chronic illnesses like diabetes and leukemia can interfere with the healing process of an implant, and according to an ADA study, smoking can double the risk of losing one altogether.
Placing Your Implant
Placing a dental implant in your jaw is an in-office procedure done with local anesthesia. Afterwards, you may experience some swelling and pain, but prescribed pain medication can always help with any discomfort. During the healing process, submit to a diet of soft, cold food and lukewarm soups.
Your dentist will wait two to six months before placing the artificial tooth or crown on top of the implant. During this time, your bone and the implant fixture are growing together; this is called osseointegration. In the meantime, however, your general dentist may give you a temporary crown, bridge or denture to help with chewing and speaking.
Getting Your New Teeth
During the period of osseointegration, your implant is covered by gum tissue. Dr. Kenneth Loeffler explains that your oral surgeon will need to uncover the implant and attach a healing collar before the dentist can begin making your new teeth. Next, impressions are taken and fixtures are connected to the implants, rendering a secure attachment for your new teeth.
Caring for Your Implant
You'll want your implants to last a lifetime, and they can if you follow through with regular dental visits, professional cleanings and good oral hygiene practices. Be sure to brush at least twice a day and floss daily, carefully cleaning around your implants to keep the gum tissue healthy. To reduce the amount of bacteria in your mouth, ask your dentist about using an antimicrobial mouth rinse like Colgate® Total Advanced Pro-Shield™.
Deciding on a dental implant procedure is a big step that requires ample discussion with your dentist and dental specialist (a periodontist or oral surgeon) who will place the implant. That's why your dentist will take x-rays, review your health history and carefully examine your mouth so that you have all the information you need to evaluate your tooth replacement options.