Let’s face it, eating is one of the greatest joys in life. Smiling comes in a close second. While regular brushing, flossing, and checkups allow many of us to maintain our natural smiles for a lifetime, sometimes our teeth just can’t keep up. If you’ve lost a tooth (or several) due to injury or disease, dental implants can rejuvenate both your smile and your oral health.
An implant is a synthetic tooth “root” in the shape of a post that replaced the missing tooth. The “root” is usually made of titanium — the same material used in many replacement hips and knees, and a metal that is well suited to pairing with human bone. Since it is titanium, it is also not susceptible to decay like a natural tooth. Once this “root” has taken hold, it is then restored with a post and crown; just like a natural tooth. This crown can be either permanently attached or removable depending on your needs. The ideal candidate for implants is a non-smoker who has good oral health, including a sufficient amount of bone in the jaw and healthy gums with no sign of gum disease.
Single or Multiple Implants
Implants are versatile. If you are missing only one tooth, an implant plus a replacement tooth will do the trick. If you are missing several teeth in a row, a few strategically placed implants can support a permanent bridge. Similarly, if you have lost all your teeth, a full bridge or full denture can be permanently fixed in your mouth with a strategic number of implants eliminating the normal dietary restrictions and adhesive requirements.
Advantages Over Dentures or Bridges
Conventional bridges and dentures are not fixed to the bone, and can therefore be unstable. Bridges are contingent on the health of the teeth to which they are affixed. This can make it difficult to eat or smile with confidence. Implants not only look more natural, but feel and act more like normal teeth, with a stronger biting force. And because they don’t directly rely on neighboring teeth for support, implants don’t compromise the health of your natural teeth. In fact, bridges have an average life expectancy of only seven to 10 years (or less if the teeth involved have had root canals) whereas implants will typically last as long as you do.
Consider your replacement teeth to be the same as natural teeth. They require the same daily brushing and flossing, and the same amount of regular checkups. Just like your natural teeth, the better you take care of your replacements, the longer they will last. This is why impeccable home care and regular dental hygiene visits and check ups are essential to their long term success.
Adjunct Implant Services
Additional implant services include:
- Sinus lift augmentation — Often the sinuses will enlarge and descend following the loss of the upper back teeth. This can prevent the placement of dental implants in the upper arch, since the sinus is an air-filled space and dental implants need to be anchored in solid bone. A sinus lift augmentation/graft is a surgical procedure that restores the sinus cavity into its original position and replaces the bone lost as a result of the enlarged sinus. This new bone graft will then be allowed to heal before the dental implants can be placed into the newly grafted bone.
- Autogenous bone grafting — Occasionally, the spot where you decide to place a dental implant does not have sufficient bone quantity to securely place dental implants. In these cases, it is often necessary to “borrow” bone from another area of your mouth to graft into the deficient area. The area of choice is typically the chin or the back of the jaw where your wisdom teeth used to be.
- Implant site development — When a tooth needs to be removed due to infection, it is not uncommon to have lost bone from around the infected tooth. In these cases, various types of bone grafting can be done at the same time the tooth is removed to facilitate the placement of a dental implant at a later date.
- Implant maintenance — We want these implants to last the rest of your life and the key to that is maintenance. Once your dental and restoration is completed, it is important to keep the area clean and infection-free. Dental implants can accumulate plaque and tartar just as teeth can so a professional cleaning schedule will be necessary to keep your implants healthy. The time interval for these professional cleanings will be determined by your individual needs and periodontal condition. Dr. Bankhead and our staff will be happy to discuss any of these procedures or concerns you may have with you.
Implant-Supported Full and Partial Dentures
Implant-supported dentures are simply dentures fixed to the gums by implants. For patients with an uncomfortable or loose-fitting denture, stabilizing it with implants can be a more comfortable solution restoring function and removing many dietary restrictions. It can also eliminate the need for adhesives.
Once implants are placed in the jaw, they heal in the surrounding bone. Attachments are placed in the underside of the denture that connect to the implants. When placed in the mouth, the denture snaps onto the implants, keeping it stable and secure. It works in fashion similar to the male-female connector of a garden hose. This added stability improves the fit, function and speech exhibited by denture wearing patients.
What are the benefits of dentures supported by implants?
- People who opt for implant-supported dentures are more confident when they talk, laugh, and eat in public. You’ll never have to worry about your false teeth slipping or falling out while you eat or are engaged in conversation.
- Implant-supported dentures are far more comfortable because they are secure and feel like natural teeth. There is also less irritation of gum tissue. Pain and canker sores are common problems for patients with conventional dentures. Implant-supported dentures look more natural than conventional dentures because less plastic is needed for retention. Wearing implant-supported dentures can also help your appearance in the long term by preventing jaw shrinkage and bone loss.
- Patients with conventional dentures have difficulty with speaking clearly. Slurred speech and clicking noises are common problems. Implant-supported dentures can help you relax and talk easily with a more clear and natural voice.
- Best of all, with implant-supported dentures, there is rarely the need to use denture adhesives.