Modern medicine continually has created innovations to allow people to have a normal life even though one or more biologic components no longer continue to function. We have dialysis and kidney transplants for failed kidneys, we have knee and hip replacements for failed joints and artificial valves to replace failed heart valves. In dentistry, when teeth have been lost due to decay, fracture, periodontal disease or trauma, we now have the ability to replace teeth with dental implants. An implant is a synthetic tooth root in the shape of a post that is surgically placed into the jawbone. The implant is made of titanium, the same material used in many replacement hips and knees. Titanium is not only completely tolerated by our body but research has shown that living bone cells will form a biologic union to the titanium metal itself. Once the jawbone has bonded to the titanium dental implant which takes approximately 3 to 6 months time, a replacement tooth can then be made to fit the implant post. Teeth supported by implants feel and function similar to your natural teeth. Implants can also be used with attachment devices to support removable appliances like a denture or partial denture depending upon your needs.
It is always best to replace a lost tooth with a dental implant as soon as possible. When teeth are lost there is atrophy and a significant shrinkage of the jaw bone. This makes implant placement more difficult and can compromise the long term prognosis. Loss of bone also means shrinkage of the gum tissue. When bone and gum tissue are lost it is very difficult to achieve optimal esthetics when the implant is finally restored. We have procedures to regenerate lost bone and soft tissue. If a tooth does require extraction the best sequence of treatment is for Dr. Sinks to remove this tooth, preserve as much of the remaining bone as possible and then add bone graft to fill in the void where the tooth was lost. Within 4 months time there will be excellent bone and soft tissue for implant placement. When possible implants will be placed at the time the tooth is removed. Both of these techniques produce excellent esthetics and long term function on your dental implants.
Replacing missing teeth is important to stabilize your bite and the remaining teeth in your dentition. When teeth are missing, the remaining teeth tend to drift or shift into the empty space. It is also important to replace missing teeth to minimize over-functioning on the remaining teeth when chewing. Putting too much stress on the remaining teeth can lead to the loss of these teeth as well.
Regardless of your situation, dental science has a solution so that nearly everyone can replace one or all of there teeth with dental implants if they wish.
Single or Multiple Implants
Implants are versatile. If you are only missing one tooth, one implant plus one replacement tooth will be all you need. If you are missing several teeth in a row, we generally try to place one implant for each missing tooth which gives the best support for the crowns on the implants. In limited situations like the lower front teeth for example, a bridge can be made. Similarly, if you have lost all of your teeth, there are several permanently fixed or removable appliances that can be made to restore your smile and chewing function.
Advantages of Implants over Bridges
There are many advantages in using one or two implants to support individual crowns and avoid a bridge. A bridge requires cutting down the enamel on teeth in front and behind the space where a tooth or teeth are missing. Any procedure which allows the patient to avoid having a healthy tooth cut down is a tremendous service to the patient and represents the most conservative treatment plan. When teeth are prepared for crowns the nerve or pulp tissue is put at risk and may die. If the nerve tissue dies, a root canal is then required. Unfortunately not every root canal treatment is successful and a certain number of root canal treated teeth fracture. Placing a dental implant will avoid preparing teeth for a bridge and risking root canal in the future.
When a bridge is made the bone in the area of the lost tooth continues to shrink or atrophy over time. Sometimes food will begin to catch or lodge under the bridge as the bone and gum tissue shrink. When an implant is placed the force of chewing is forced into the body of the jawbone. This is a normal stress to the jawbone which encourages bone formation and resists the atrophy of the bone when a tooth is lost.
All of us are concerned about fees. A three tooth bridge generally is less costly than a single implant with a crown but the difference is minimal. What patients need to know is that cemented crowns and bridges often require replacement due to leakage and the formation of new decay within 7-15 years. This means that if you have a bridge placed in, you may need to replace the bridge two or three times during the remainder of your life. The bottom line is that if a bridge requires replacement for any reason including new decay, complication with root canals or root fractures, the treatment alterative of placing an implant will be dramatically less costly. The implant is far more conservative treatment in that it helps preserve bone, you do not need to prepare or cut down healthy teeth and once an implant is integrated with the bone, it very rarely requires replacement.
Post-Treatment Care of Your Implants
Implants act like natural teeth and must be cared for with daily brushing and flossing and seeing the hygienist regularly. Just like your natural teeth, the better you take care of your replacements, the longer they will last.