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In the past, if you lost a tooth, it was gone forever. We still can’t regrow a lost tooth, but dental implants are so close that you most likely won’t care about the difference. Dental implants look like natural teeth, they function like natural teeth, and you care for them just like natural teeth. And if you care for them properly, they can last a lifetime just like your natural teeth.
Dental Implant Benefits
Dental implants are the best option for replacing missing teeth. They are better than other tooth replacement options because they:
- Look just like natural teeth
- Allow you to eat all your favorite foods
- Help you speak clearly
- Are fully fixed in your mouth
- Support themselves
- Stimulate jawbone and gums
- Can last a lifetime
Dental implants look just like natural teeth. The difference between natural teeth and implants, the titanium root, is concealed under your gums and bone. Also, the top part of the tooth is an aesthetic, natural-looking dental crown.
And because dental implants are firmly fixed in your jawbone, they function just like your natural teeth. You can eat all your favorite foods, and you won’t have to relearn how to peak with them in. You can also talk and laugh as loud as you want. They won’t fall out. Your bone grows around and attaches to them. They won’t come out.
And unlike dental bridges and dentures, dental implants support themselves. They don’t rely on neighboring teeth for support. That means that your other teeth won’t suffer damage from having to support a prosthetic.
Even better, your dental implant will actually help support the health of your jawbone. When teeth are removed, the body will often start removing the bone that supported teeth. Dental implants actually stimulate that bone, and the gums atop the bone, so your body maintains it.
Because dental implants are incorporated into your jawbone, they have the ability to last a lifetime.
Are You a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Most people are candidates for dental implants. There are only three absolute requirements to get dental implants:
- Have lost one or more teeth
- Must be an adult whose jawbone has stopped growing
- Must be healthy enough for surgery
Otherwise, there are many conditions we have to take into account that can affect your odds of success with dental implants. Gum disease can put your implants at risk, just as it affects your teeth. We will want to treat gum disease either before or during your dental implant procedure. A loss of bone at the implant site may require additional procedures like a bone graft, or it may put limits on what we can do with dental implants. Smoking and some medications increase your risk of dental implant failure. It’s best to quit smoking altogether before you get dental implants, but you should at least quit during recovery.
The best way to know if you’re candidate, is to talk to an implant dentist in person.
How Dental Implants Work
Dental implants are designed to work just like your natural teeth. So, like natural teeth, they have two parts: the root and the crown. The root is designed to bond with your jawbone for strength and support. The crown is designed to chew and look pretty.
Before your implant is placed, we may have to take care of any existing oral health conditions, such as gum disease. Sometimes you may also need a bone graft before your implant procedure. Usually, your implants can be placed at the same time as any teeth are extracted, but sometimes we may have to do extractions first.
The dental implant root is placed in your jawbone. We will then measure the stability of the dental implant. If the implant is stable enough, you can get a provisional crown or bridge on the implant that day. If not, you may need to have some other kind of provisional while your implant heals.
Once your implant healing is complete, 3 to 6 months, permanent restorations are placed. Sometimes, we might bury your implant under the gums to protect it, and if that’s the case, you’ll need more time for another surgery and a little healing.
Care and Maintenance of Dental Implants
We mentioned that dental implants can last a lifetime if they’re properly cared for. Studies of up to 30 years confirm an over 90% survival rate, and some people have had dental implants for up to 50 years. There’s no reason to believe that there’s an upper limit to the survival of dental implants if you take care of them.
Mostly, care of dental implants is the same as for natural teeth: brush, floss, and make regular dental appointments. Your actual flossing technique may vary, depending on the structure of the implant. Depending on your oral health, we might also ask that you make an extra visit to receive preventive cleanings.
While dental implants can last a lifetime, you may have to do minor repairs or adjustments to the restorations, perhaps once every seven or eight years.