Dental implants are a popular option if you have missing or failing teeth.
Tooth loss is a common problem that you have a good chance of experiencing at some point in your life, unfortunately. Whether you lose a tooth from cavities, severe gum disease, accidental damage or other reasons, the loss of a single tooth or multiple teeth can have dramatic and lasting effects on your smile and your ability to chew if it is not dealt with in a timely manner. Without replacing the tooth, your smile could look unsightly or crooked, in addition to creating further problems for the future.
Teeth adjacent to a space where a tooth has been lost often tend to shift or move into that space. This movement leads to further instability among neighboring teeth, and soon enough your bite will suffer because the teeth have become misaligned. Additionally, teeth in the opposing jaw will often begin to “grow” further up or down as it looks to make contact with a neighboring tooth. If no tooth is encountered, the gum tissue in the area of the lost tooth may become the surrogate, which is a match that can lead to constant discomfort or a persistent sore spot.
To make matters worse, the jawbone where the root of the missing tooth used to sit is no longer stimulated during chewing, and it will shrink away in a process known as “resorption.” Once jawbone density is lost, it’s difficult to regain, regardless if you undergo sophisticated bone grafting techniques.
So what do you do when you lose a tooth? Replace it! There are a few different options for replacing missing teeth – including a fixed bridge or removable partial denture – but the best solution for managing gum tissue architecture, jawbone strength and aesthetics is dental implants.
The most common option in dentistry for tooth replacement used to be a “fixed bridge,” which is when the teeth on either side of the space were shaved down and a dental bridge that had a fake tooth in the middle was cemented over them. This addressed the problem of teeth shifting, as well as keeping aesthetics in line. However, because chewing forces would now be distributed to the bone of the neighboring teeth, the resorption process would often continue and, over time, create a defect in the bone and gums in that area.
For those who are missing the majority or all of their teeth, or who didn’t opt for the fixed bridge, removable partial or full dentures are another option. This, unfortunately, still does not solve the problem of lost roots and bone resorption. Dentures also tend to be uncomfortable and also make it difficult to speak or chew effectively, not to mention smiling with confidence!
Most dental professionals would agree that replacing a missing (or soon to be missing) tooth or teeth with dental implant supported crowns or bridges is the best option. A dental implant is like an artificial tooth implanted in the jawbone that is capable of supporting one or more teeth. You no longer need to rely on neighboring teeth to support either a fixed or a removable bridge, or alter perfectly healthy teeth to accommodate the replacement of one, and implants help to preserve the strength of the underlying jawbone.
So how do you know you might need a dental implant?
If you have lingering, unprovoked (not in response to eating or drinking) pain, it’s possible your tooth may need to be removed and replaced with a dental implant. In some cases, a dental implant can be surgically inserted the same day the offending tooth is removed. This is known as “immediate implant placement” and a temporary crown can sometimes be attached to the implant so the patient never has to have a gap in their smile.
In situations where there is considerable bone loss around the failing tooth root or you’ve suffered a traumatic injury, “delayed implant placement” is the best option. In these instances, it’s common to have a bone graft at the site of the extracted tooth to help rebuild the volume of the bone that’s needed for future implant placement. This could occur a few months later, after the bone graft has healed, but many times a temporary device can be worn until the implant crown is placed so your smile stays intact.
Regardless of the cause, replacing missing or failing teeth with dental implants as early as possible will give you the best chance for a successful and aesthetically-pleasing outcome. You want to reduce or eliminate the risk of having teeth shift, which will help to avoid future dental problems and keep you smiling straight!