You might be missing a tooth for any number of reasons. Extensive decay or damage caused by advanced gum disease can lead to tooth loss. So can an injury to the mouth that causes a tooth to break or fall out. Not only can tooth loss cause oral health problems, but it can also make you feel self-conscious or change the way you speak and eat.
If you are missing a tooth or teeth for whatever reason, you don’t have to go through life without them. Several tooth replacement options are available, but the gold standard when it comes to tooth replacement is dental implants. If you’re missing a tooth, a dental implant might be a good option for you. But what are dental implants and what makes someone a good candidate for receiving them? Here’s what you need to know.
What Are Dental Implants?
The quickest way to describe a dental implant is as an artificial tooth root. The implant is placed into the jaw, holding a crown or bridge in place. Unlike other tooth replacement options, such as dentures, you don’t need to remove implants. In fact, you can’t remove them–they are permanently attached to the bone.
Depending on the number of teeth you have lost, you can get a single implant to replace one tooth or multiple implants to replace several teeth. If you are missing all of your teeth, you might be able to get implants to replace a full set of adult teeth.
How Do You Know if Implants Are Right for You?
If you are missing one or more teeth, it is very likely that implants are a good option for you. Dental implants are usually recommended for adults or for older teens who have a fully-developed set of adult teeth. Candidates should ideally be in good overall health.
The health of your gums can also influence whether or not dental implants are right for you. If you currently have or have had gum disease in the past, it is important to treat the problem and manage it before considering your implant options.
You do need to have an adequate amount of bone to receive an implant. If you have lost a significant amount of bone in the jaw, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you aren’t a good candidate, though. Before placing an implant, your dentist might be able to perform a bone grafting procedure to restore lost bone.
In some cases, certain habits or conditions can interfere with your candidacy for implants. For example, if you’re an active smoker, you might not be a good match for implants. Smoking affects your gum health and can slow down the healing process. It can also interfere with the implant and can increase the risk of failure. If you drink more than a moderate amount of alcohol, you might also not be a good candidate for implants. Excessive drinking can have a negative effect on your gum health.
Additionally, if you have certain medical conditions, your dentist might ask you to address them before you undergo implant surgery. For example, if you have diabetes, it is important to get it under control before you receive the implants. Your dentist will review your medical history with you and let you know what steps to take to improve your candidacy for implants.
What to Expect When You Get Dental Implants
Getting a single dental implant or multiple implants is usually a process that takes several months. You won’t go into your dentist’s office once and walk out with a shiny new replacement tooth right away.
The first step in the process is the placement of the implant, or replacement tooth root, in your jaw. Your dentist will position the implant, then cover it with gum tissue.
Over the next few months, the implant will fuse into your jawbone, becoming a permanent part of your mouth. During that time, you’ll wear a temporary crown to cover up and protect the implant.
Once the implant is integrated into your jawbone, the next step is to replace the temporary crown with a permanent one. The new crown will be custom fit to your mouth and designed to mimic the look of your natural teeth.
After your implant procedure is over and the permanent crown is in place, you can treat the implant like the rest of your teeth. Brush it (and the rest of your teeth) twice a day and floss between it and your other teeth. Don’t forget to see your dentist regularly for exams and cleanings. You’ll most likely want to follow up with the dentist who performed the implant procedure from time to time to make sure everything is going well.
Dr. John Paul Gallardo is a periodontal specialist in the Miami area who is an expert in dental implants. If you are missing one or more teeth and are interested in learning more about your replacement options, call 305-547-8687 today to schedule an appointment in Miami, FL.