Losing teeth is a bother in a few ways. The gaps in your smile may knock your self-confidence, and an incomplete set of teeth presents functional disadvantages too. Eating and speaking can become challenging. The loss of even a couple of teeth can cause your remaining teeth to shift. This results in loose or unevenly spaced teeth, malocclusion (also known as a bad bite), and may cause headaches or grinding in your sleep that damages your teeth. Fortunately, many options exist for the replacement of missing teeth, including dentures fitted on jaw implants. Here's how to know if this is a viable option for you.
What Are Jaw Implants?
Many denture patients are likely candidates for dental implants. These are typically full or partial dentures attached to the jaw using titanium posts that are surgically inserted into the jawbone inside the gums. The implants fuse to the bone, providing stability for the dentures so the patient can eat and speak without experiencing movement of the denture in his or her mouth.
The implants come in several types. According to the American Association of Implant Dentistry, the most common are endosteal and subperiosteal.
Endosteal implants are small screws, cylinders or plates surgically placed in the jawbone. Subperiosteal implants are posts inserted under the gum but above the jawbone. The replacement teeth are then mounted on the posts. Dental professionals recommend the latter for patients who have a shallow jawbone and are unable to have it rebuilt, for any reason.
In some cases, bone augmentation may be required to restore or regenerate the bone in tooth sockets without sufficient bone mass. This is done by using synthetic bone, donor bone, bone growth additives or bone harvested from elsewhere in the patient's body.
Mini dental implants are similar to regular implants, but smaller. The surgical placement is less invasive and can be carried out in a single visit using a mild anesthetic. Patients can usually eat with their new dentures the same day.
Reasons for Having Jaw Implants
What determines whether a patient is eligible for jaw implants? Tooth loss among American adults has now reached serious proportions, according to the Centers for Disease Control, with 19 percent of adults over 65 suffering complete edentulism or tooth loss. For many, dentures and bridges aren't the answer. The ideal candidate for implants is someone who:
- Has healthy gums and oral tissue.
- Follows a daily oral hygiene regimen of brushing, flossing and rinsing with antibacterial mouthwash.
- Have sufficient bone mass to support the placement of dental implants or whose mouth is suitable for augmentation.
Cost of Treatment
Choosing jaw implants as an option for tooth replacement is a significant commitment and that applies to the cost of treatment, too. The costs vary depending on the patient's requirements and location. The Dental Implant Cost Guide estimates that a single tooth implant cost between $1,000 and $4,000 as of 2015, while two implants cost up to $15,000. Four to six implants with the supported dentures come in at an average cost of $34,000 per denture, with prices up to $95,000 recorded for both upper and lower.
Overall, implants are an expensive option, but for patients who fit the criteria and have either the insurance or the funds to cover it, dental implants could provide a new lease on life.