Replacing Missing Teeth
Your teeth affect your whole body. When they’re healthy, you’re healthier, too. A missing tooth can affect your bite, speech, appearance and your eating choices; as you rely more on your remaining teeth, you increase the chance they will wear out prematurely, or be weakened, damaged or lost. You may also experience headaches and/or jaw pain.
Who would want their appearance and health to deteriorate? That’s the natural consequence of missing teeth – the jaw bone literally dissolves from disuse atrophy. 25% of supporting jawbone structure dissolves away within the first year after tooth loss. Dental implants are more easily placed when teeth are first extracted because bone replacement becomes more complex as time passes and more bone dissolves. The great news? Implants act just like your natural teeth. They safeguard and preserve your bone structure, oral health and appearance. Dr. Davis, your implant surgeon, works with your general dentist to provide you with options so that you can make the best informed decision concerning tooth replacement.
Tooth Replacement Options
There are a number of different options to replace your missing teeth – from temporary to long-lasting solutions.
A good candidate for dental implant therapy is anyone missing one or more teeth who is in good health or someone who is unhappy with dentures. Age is not a factor. However, smoking, alcohol excess and diabetes have been shown to lower the success of your body’s healing. X-rays of your jaw will be taken to evaluate whether they will accommodate implants and to determine if additional tests or procedures are needed to place implants properly.
Dental implants are the most comfortable and permanent solution. They form a strong foundation for teeth and keep the jaw bone healthy and strong. Implants support an individual tooth or a segment of replacement teeth or may secure specialized dentures. Cemented bridges or partial dentures can damage healthy teeth. Unlike most bridges, implants can last a lifetime. Implant-supported replacement teeth can be attractive, stable, and comfortable for any patient.
A fixed bridge is a connected set of replacement teeth. For support, it is cemented into position on top of the teeth adjacent to the empty space. The protective outer layer of these teeth must be ground down prior to attaching the bridge. Whenever you cut away tooth structure or remove old restorations, you open the potential for the nerve to die. The tooth will then require root canal therapy. There are times that root canal cannot be provided or will not be successful. We strive to avoid involving adjacent teeth in any treatment to avoid the risks of additional complications.
A fragile, immediately placed inexpensive temporary solution is an acrylic tooth attached to a plastic retainer called a “flipper”. Unfortunately, it is removable collecting food and bacteria around it. Dangerous to wear due to the possibility of swallowing or choking on it, it also risks compressing the gum and bone tissues under it causing more bone damage. It is only to be used immediately following an extraction until a safer temporary replacement may be provided. There are limited cases for which this device can be safely used.
Metal Partial Denture
An alternate removable option is a ‘removable partial denture’ cast in metal with overlying pink plastic gums and white teeth. It is held in place by metal hooks A removable partial denture is removed and reinserted by the patient to clean away collected food debris after meals. Unfortunately, it can wobble stressing and loosening the supporting hooked teeth causing bone damage and tooth loss. It will have to be periodically repaired and remade at additional costs.
The most common solution, for people missing all teeth in a jaw is a complete denture. Most patients find them uncomfortable, even intolerable; some patients adapt to wearing them. Upper dentures block the roof of the mouth altering speech and taste. Upper and lower dentures sit upon the gum ridges compressing the underlying bone, and micro-wobbling causes the bone to shrink over time. The fit then loosens causing more wobbling leading to even more bone damage. Dentures require annual evaluation for refitting the plastic or periodic replacement at additional costs. All dentures collect food and bacteria about them causing mouth odors.
Why Select Dental Implants Over Other Types Of Restorations?
There are several reasons: A dental bridge sacrifices the structure of surrounding good teeth to bridge the space of the missing tooth/teeth. Cutting a tooth for a crown opens a pandoras box of possible complications that can be easily avoided by keeping a ‘single tooth problem a single tooth issue.‘ In addition, removing a denture or a “partial” to clean away collected food debris and bacteria that cause mouth odors is annoying, not to mention dentures that slip can be uncomfortable and rather embarrassing. Overtime, all dentures will wobble causing more bone damage.
What Are Dental Implants?
A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. If you compare natural teeth to implant-supported replacement teeth, you’ll see they have the same basic parts. Both have a crown (the visible part used to chew food). Both have a root that holds the tooth securely under the gum and is anchored into the jaw. The difference is that the implant is made of titanium – the same time-tested material used by surgeons for artificial joints. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace the tooth, Dr. Davis, your implant surgeon, first replaces the root with a small dental implant.
Time is allowed for bone to heal and grow onto the dental implant. Your bone bonds directly to the titanium creating a strong foundation for the replacement teeth. A support post is then placed on the implant, and your replacement tooth is then attached onto the post. In some cases a temporary replacement tooth can be attached to the implant immediately after it is placed. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.
“Don’t be afraid to Smile.”
For years I’d felt like a part of my body was missing — because my teeth were. My dentist told me that dental implants would make me feel and look a lot better. OK, I said. Now, I’m thrilled. I can smile, eat anything, and enjoy a good laugh with my friends.
Using the most recent advances in dental implant technology, Dr. Davis is able to place single stage implants. These implants do not require a second procedure to uncover them, but do require a minimum of six weeks of healing time before artificial teeth are placed. There are even situations where the implant can be placed at the same time as the tooth extraction – further minimizing your number of surgical procedures.
Dental implant placement is a team effort between an implant surgeon and a restorative dentist. Dr. Davis performs the actual implant surgery with initial tooth extractions and bone and/or gum grafting, if necessary. The restorative dentist (your dentist) fits and makes the permanent prosthesis. Your dentist will also make any temporary prosthesis needed during the implant process.