Healthy teeth are vital. They affect everything from social interaction to efficient digestion. Unfortunately, the teeth can be fragile, and it’s not hard to damage them. It’s not uncommon to lose one due to accident, tooth decay, periodontitis, congenital defects, or just normal wear-and-tear during the aging process. Even worse than losing one tooth, though, is losing multiple teeth.
Multiple missing teeth can cause massive problems with self-confidence and leave you self-conscious and afraid to talk or smile in public, which can impact both your social life and your career. They can also cause physical difficulty with speaking and chewing, potentially leading to long-term problems with malnutrition. Fortunately, missing teeth is not a problem without a solution.
About Multiple Tooth Implants
The traditional method of repairing missing teeth is a bridge that cements onto neighboring teeth. Unfortunately, this requires grinding down those adjacent teeth so that they can act as a support. Multiple tooth implants, or the implant-supported bridge, are a better way to fix the problem. This remedy uses multiple implants in your jaw to replace the roots of the teeth, thereby supporting the bridge without damaging adjacent teeth. The result is a replacement that looks and feels completely natural.
Fixing those missing teeth first requires an examination to see the extent of problem and to determine what can be fixed. This is usually followed by X-rays or a CT scan to determine if you have sufficient bone and gum tissue to support the implants and to determine ideal location for placing them.
Once this advance work is done, the replacement itself requires two stages. In the first stage, small pilot holes will be drilled in the bone and then gradually widened to accommodate several small metal implants. These implants look something like screws, but they will be hidden by a temporary cover while they heal. In addition to disguising the implants, the cover also improves healing and creates a shape for your gums to mold themselves around.
Once the implants are placed, you will typically wait 2-6 months while the bone and metal bond to each other to create a strong and stable base for the bridge. At this point, a customized bridge will be created to fit the space. It will be placed over the implants and attached using small metal posts known as abutments. After a short adjustment period, your new bridge will be as secure and comfortable as your original teeth.
There are potential variations on this procedure. Depending on the extent of the damage, it is sometimes possible to do a one-stage procedure using an implant with a pre-attached extension piece. The viability of this varies from case to case, though, so Dr. Gallardo or Dr. Lamas will need to advise you on it following an examination.
After your implants are placed, you may experience slight bleeding and bruising, which should be gone in a couple of days. There will also be some swelling for up to two weeks. This is normally confined to the implant area, but it sometimes spreads to the rest of the face on that side. Your discomfort should be fairly mild, but you will be prescribed oral painkillers to help.
Good aftercare is vital for successful implants. Failure to floss, brush, and otherwise maintain good oral hygiene can lead to an infection. Smoking is also heavily associated with infections and implant failure.
What You Can Expect
With a multiple tooth replacement, you can expect a beautiful, intact smile as a bonus to your regained ability to eat and talk normally. The replacement will feel just like normal teeth. It is a permanent solution with no restrictions, no follow-up procedures, and no risk of cavities.
Unlike a temporary bridge, this implant-supported bridge won’t damage your other teeth. Implants also stabilize the entire structure, making it more functional. Unlike a cemented bridge, an implant-supported bridge will not come loose or wiggle around, so it is much stronger. It’s better for your bones, too. The bone around temporary bridges often shrinks back, leading to an uneven and unattractive smile. Implants, on the other hand, fully integrate with the bone, which keeps everything intact and healthy.
Multiple tooth implants are also easier to keep clean and sanitary. The metal around traditional bridges can become exposed when the gums recede, and the cement sometimes washes out, leaving gaps. These problems are not only unattractive but also dangerous breeding grounds for bacteria and infection. Essentially, your implant-supported bridge will be a complete and permanent replacement for your original teeth and should look and feel so natural you’ll forget they’re there.
Q. Do the implants fail often?
A. No, not at all. In fact, dental implants are a highly successful procedure and have a success rate of over 90%. In most cases of failure, the problem can be traced back to inadequate aftercare such as not maintaining proper oral hygiene, so with attentive care, the success rate will be even higher.
Q. Can anything be done if I don’t have much bone to work with?
A. This varies on a case-by-case basis, but for many patients, a bone or tissue graft can help provide enough material for the implants. In any case, though, a thorough examination will be necessary to determine what is possible in your situation.
Q. Am I eligible for a multiple tooth implant if all of my teeth are missing?
A. Full-mouth dental implants are certainly a good option for many people who need to have all of their teeth replaced. The procedure is obviously more extensive, but it uses the same basic method of an implant-supported bridge. Dr. Gallardo or Dr. Lamas will be able to advise you on your specific options after an examination.
Q. Will I have any longterm restrictions once the implants are placed?
A. No. Implant-supported bridges are sturdy enough to hold up under normal behavior, including eating whatever foods you like. You’ll need to restrict your diet to soft foods for about a week after the procedure while everything heals, but after that, you can return to life as normal.
Q. How old do you need to be to get a multiple tooth implant?
A. Since the implants go into the bone itself, patients must wait until bone growth is complete before having the procedure done. This typically happens around the end of adolescence. Temporary solutions are always available, however. Dr. Gallardo or Dr. Lamas can advise you as to your best options until your bones are fully developed and ready for the implants.