Despite the advances in oral care and dental hygiene, aging is not the only reason for tooth loss. In fact, 1 out of 4 adults lose all their permanent teeth by age 74. Tooth loss, dental decay, gum disease, accidents, and oral infections are all common dental problems that lead to getting a tooth removed. In the past, dentures and bridgework were the only options available. But in the past few years, dental implants have become more and more popular.
When you are missing a tooth, it’s best to replace it right away. And replacing a tooth is more than a cosmetic preference. Once a tooth is extracted or lost, the surrounding bone structures begin to disintegrate. This affects the jaw, your facial structure, and potentially the joints in your mouth if too many teeth are missing. A missing tooth can also affect the remaining teeth, causing them to shift and have issues with the bite, by affecting the alignment.
It is important to know your options for replacing missing teeth and what risks are involved with those options. Dental implants are safe and durable, yet with all surgeries, there are still risks involved.
Because of the complex nature in which dental implants are placed, they are much sturdier and resilient than dentures or bridgework.
Bridgework relies on the integrity of the surrounding teeth for support, whereas implants are drilled directly into the bone. Implants also prevent damage to other teeth. Unlike dentures, dental implants help avoid bone loss since the implants replace the tooth and the root.
A huge advantage of dental implants is their natural appearance. Again, because they replace the tooth and its root, the implant is placed against the gum, giving it a very natural appearance. Regardless of the cosmetic, superficial appearance, implants function like real teeth. There is no “clicking” like with dentures and limited difficulties like with dentures and bridgework. Dentures can cause chewing and speaking problems.
Caring for dental implants is no different than how you care for your natural teeth. There is no extra care like with dentures or bridgework. Implants are incredibly durable, which makes them stand up to natural wear and tear like your normal teeth.
The success rate in those who have gotten dental implants is 98%.
Like with any surgery, there are risks involved. Although the implant is secured to the bone, there is a risk for infection in your gums. Bacteria can get into the implant site and cause peri-implantitis, an infection that can lead to bone loss.
There is the risk of sinus complications if the implants extend into the sinus cavity. This could cause a higher likelihood of frequent sinus infections or sinusitis. Nerve damage is another risk of dental implants. The main nerve located in the jaw that supplies sensation to the bottom row of teeth can become damaged by the implant drills or a local anesthetic injection.
The process of getting dental implants is a very long process that takes many months to complete. The anchor is first secured to the jawbone. Before a new tooth can be installed, the bone has to fuse to the implant. It takes approximately 6 months for the bone to properly heal. Then a reconstructive dentist attaches the new tooth, essentially screwing it onto the implant. Depending on the severity of your tooth loss, whether the original tooth extraction resulted in bone damage, and how quickly your body heals, this process can take upwards of one year.
Dental implants can lead to additional dental work, because the implant process is so complex. If the jawbone is weak and unable to support the titanium implant, your dentist will need to perform a bone graft. A bone graft takes a special piece of material and replaces the damaged or weakened bone with this new material. There is a higher risk that your body may reject the graft, because it is a foreign object. However, if successfully done, your jaw will be strong enough to support the implant.
Lastly, and something to consider when weighing your tooth replacement options, is that insurance does not always cover dental implants. If the tooth replacement is due to unhealthy oral health conditions, there is a greater chance that insurance will pay more towards the surgery, than if it is simply for cosmetic purposes. There will most likely be some out-of-pocket charges that insurance doesn’t cover, but be sure to speak with your dentist and oral surgeon about financing possibilities.
Despite the risks involved, dental implants are a safe and reliable tooth replacement that can improve your quality of life. Dental implants improve chewing, speech, and appearance. They are considered a long-term replacement option because if they are well-maintained and taken care of, they will last a lifetime. Dentures and bridgework may need replacing every 7-10 years.
If you suffer from missing teeth or think that dental implants would be a good alternative to dentures or bridgework, talk to your doctor today.