There are a variety of reasons a person can be missing a tooth: gum disease, excessive decay, or due to trauma such as from a sporting event. Some people opt to simply leave the gap in their teeth, but this can lead to other dental problems down the road.
At Pound Ridge Cosmetic Dentistry, we believe dental implants are far and away the best solution to replace a missing tooth.
What Is a Dental Implant?
The name dental implant actually comes from the anchor portion of the entire tooth, the implant. Implants are made of titanium and are shaped like a screw. They are screwed down into the hole formerly occupied by the tooth root. Atop the implant a post is attached, and an artificial tooth is attached to the post. The three parts make up the dental implant. Once in place, a dental implant behaves and looks just like a natural tooth.
Who Is a Good Candidate for A Dental Implant?
Just about everyone who is missing a tooth or teeth, or who has a badly damaged tooth that will need extraction, is a great candidate to have Dr. Smith or Dr. Feng replace the missing tooth with a dental implant. The jawbone and teeth need to be finished growing and moving, so the patient needs to be an adult. There isn’t an upper age limit. The one exception, although it is only temporary, is if the patient doesn’t have sufficient jawbone mass to support an implant. This can be the case if the patient has been missing a number of teeth for some time, and the underlying jawbone has deteriorated. In these cases, we would have to build up the jawbone with bone grafts prior to placing an implant.
What Are the Advantages of Replacing a Tooth with A Dental Implant?
At Pound Ridge, we’re big fans of dental implants. We believe they are far and away the best option for replacing a missing tooth. Here are some reasons why:
- Dental implants behave exactly like a natural tooth, so the patient can eat any foods and chew normally.
- Unlike bridges, where adjacent “abutment teeth” need to be crowned to anchor the bridge holding the false tooth or teeth, implants stand alone.
- Implants keep adjacent teeth from moving.
- Implants are load-bearing teeth, so you don’t have to avoid chewing or biting with them. Plus, they transfer energy down into the jawbone just as natural teeth do. This keeps the jawbone healthy.
- Implants have a 95% success rate and can last for decades, giving the patient back his or her smile and the ability to eat any foods.
What Are the Disadvantages of Dental Implants?
There really aren’t any disadvantages to the function or value of a dental implant. Some patients may balk at the higher cost of a dental implant versus a bridge, but they aren’t taking into account that the bridge will need to be replaced at least once, probably twice, while the dental implant will likely last the remainder of the patient’s life.
Another thing about implants is the time it takes to get one. From start to finish, it will likely take at least four months, more likely six months for the complete implant process.
What Is the Procedure for Getting a Dental Implant?
Not everyone can have a dental implant, at least not immediately. If a person has been missing a tooth or teeth for some time, the jawbone below the gap may have resorbed to the point that there isn’t enough bone mass to safely hold the implant. In that case, the jawbone will need to be built back up with bone grafts before an implant can be placed. Otherwise, just about any adult of any age can have an implant, and this is how we place implants at Pound Ridge.
The Implant Process Involves Four Distinct Steps:
- Implant placement — You are given local anesthetic only to numb the gums where the implant will be placed. Then we expose the jawbone. If needed, a tiny hole may be drilled into the socket that held the former tooth root. Now the titanium implant is screwed down into the socket, and the tiny gum incision is closed with one or two stitches.
- Osseointegration — The second step is what separates implants from other replacement options. Once the implant is placed, the jawbone is allowed to grow around the implant, making it part of the jaw. This process, called osseointegration, takes from three to six months.
- Attaching the post — Once your jawbone has adopted the implant you return and we attach a post, called an abutment, to the implant. Then we need to allow time for your gums to heal around the post. This takes approximately six more weeks.
- Attaching the false tooth — When your gums have healed, you’re ready to have the crown (false tooth) attached to the post. At Pound Ridge, we use only porcelain crowns in our practice, so it will beautifully match your surrounding teeth and provide unparalleled strength and durability. Once we attach the crown, you can go out and immediately enjoy your new tooth.
How Long Can I Expect My Dental Implant to Last?
Dental implants are the longest lasting dental prosthetic. Once the titanium implant base is fully integrated into the jawbone, that isn’t going anywhere. Even if the artificial tooth attached to the implant breaks or becomes damaged, it can easily be replaced. For most patients, their dental implant will last the remainder of their life.
Can dentures be anchored by implants?
If the patient is missing many teeth, it may be too costly to replace each tooth with an implant. In those cases, the patient may opt for partial or full dentures. But implants are still effective here, acting as anchors for the dentures. Implants placed in strategic locations can allow dentures to be permanently attached to the implants, removing the need to remove the dentures each night. The implants also add strength when biting and chewing, and they keep the dentures from slipping. This helps overcome the two most irritating aspects of wearing dentures.