One area sure to send your confidence level soaring is right under your nose. Literally. Modern dentistry has advanced to the point where if you're unsatisfied with your smile, there's probably a procedure that can rectify the problem. Braces, crowns and bonding do the trick in lots of cases. But when it comes to replacing a missing tooth or retiring a set of dentures, jaw implants can improve your smile and overall oral health.
What Is a Jaw Implant?
Simply put, it's a device that is surgically placed into the upper or lower jaw where it serves as an anchor for a replacement tooth, according to the American Dental Association (ADA). Jaw implants are made of titanium and other materials compatible with the body. They are designed to blend in with existing teeth to give your smile a natural appearance.
Implant placement is typically performed in two steps. Your dentist will numb the area with a local anesthetic. After cutting through the gums enough to expose the jaw bone, a hole is drilled into the bone and the implant is inserted. The gum is then stitched close to seal in the implant. Approximately seven to 10 days later, you'll return to have the stitches removed.
The second step occurs months later so that the bone has time to bond with the implant. An upper jaw implant has a waiting period of five or six months while the lower jaw is only three or four months. After another local anesthesia, the implant is exposed by cutting through the gum. A metal healing cap is then placed into the implant. The cap acts like a collar. Two to three weeks after this procedure, a crown or bridge for the collar can be constructed.
There are potential issues that can arise with jaw implants. Nerves and sinuses can suffer injury as a result of drilling. Excess bleeding and gum infections are also possible.
Worse than that is the chance that the implant doesn't mesh with the surrounding bone. The failed implant needs to be removed and another viable one inserted. Reasons for failure include lack of a healthy bone, an infection adjacent to the implant, or the patient is a smoker or has a titanium allergy.
Cosmetic or Health
There are two primary reasons to have a jaw implant: cosmetic reasons or health necessity. A cosmetic reason usually stems from wanting to fix a single tooth. Perhaps it was damaged in an accident or in a sport injury. For health reasons, a study published in the journal Clinical Oral Implants Research concluded that patients' oral health quality of life score significantly increased after implant surgery. Additionally, the ADA says that a missing tooth can affect how you chew and speak and it may lead to further bone loss.
To be a viable candidate for implantation, there are three main traits a patient should possess:
- Healthy gums
- Substantial bone that can intergrate around the implants
- Dedication to proper oral care
Not everyone who wants an implant is a good candidate though. Health issues play a major role in making that determination. Some conditions can negate your eligibility, such as:
- Chronic diseases, such as leukemia and diabetes
- Immune system deficiencies
Pregnant women, smokers, substance abusers, and teenagers and children may not be eligible. For teenagers and children, their jaw bones aren't fully developed.
Whether you have an implant or not, developing a mouth health regimen should be high on everyone's to-do list. Start with brushing at least twice each day. Colgate Total® Cleant Mint Toothpaste is a fluoride toothpaste that not only prevents plaque and tartar, but keeps your breath fresh. Floss every day too. Flossing rids your mouth of food particles that regular brushing might not reach. Above all, schedule regular dental checkups. Sometimes oral procedures, such as dental implants are unavoidable, which is great. Ideally, your natural teeth are best, but implants are a positive asset to replace missing teeth.