There are myriad ways patients can lose teeth, including severe gum disease, injuries, and infections or decay. When this happens, dental implants are a great way to restore your smile while protecting your other, healthy teeth, and maintaining the integrity of your jawbone. The procedure itself may sound scary, but modern advances in dentistry have made it easier than ever. Many patients who receive implants report experiencing very little discomfort, and over-the-counter pain medications such as Tylenol are enough to knock out any pain you experience during recovery. The procedure is surprisingly common, in fact; dentists place around 500,000 dental implants every year.
Dental bridges or dentures can also be used to restore the look and function of your mouth after you have lost a tooth, but dental implants are becoming increasingly popular in the United States. Before you decide which treatment is right for you, it’s important to consider the facts regarding each option. Here are some of the reasons that dental implants are quickly becoming a preferred tooth-replacement option.
They preserve healthy teeth.
Dentists’ overall goal is always to do what is best for the health of your teeth and gums. Dental bridges require dentists to file down parts of otherwise healthy teeth in order to secure the bridge in your mouth. This can increase the risk of decay and gum disease for the supporting teeth, which can cause the bridge to fail and may make it necessary for you to have a root canal. Dental implants, however, are a great way to restore your oral health without compromising the health of your other teeth; the unhealthy tooth is removed and the implant placed without doing anything to your other teeth. This not only keeps your mouth healthy in the short term but looks toward ensuring it’s healthy in the long term, too.
They keep your teeth from migrating.
When you lose a tooth and simply leave the gap there, your teeth will eventually start migrating into that gap—whether or not they’re covered by dentures. If dentures are covering them, no one will see the resulting gaps, but they can still cause problems for your oral health. These gaps can make it hard to clean your teeth, which puts them at greater risk for gum disease. If left untreated, severe gum disease can result in more tooth loss. Placing an implant in the gap fills the space, maintaining the natural spacing of your teeth.
They protect your jawbone.
Your jawbone receives constant stimulation from the roots of your teeth that tells it to grow. This means that once the tooth is removed and the stimulation stops, your jawbone starts to slowly deteriorate. Over time, this can cause one side of your face to look sunken in. Dentures and dental bridges simply cannot exert the same amount of stimulation that the roots of your teeth do. If you have dentures, they can actually speed up this bone loss by wearing away the ridges of bone on which they’re placed, which can result in ill-fitting dentures. If this happens, your dentist will either have to alter or replace your dentures altogether, costing you more money.
Dental implants, however, are anchored directly into your jawbone, meaning that they can provide the bone with this stimulation. After the implant post is placed, the bone begins to grow around the post, holding it more firmly in place, rather than deteriorating. If you want to avoid this bone loss, it’s important to get an implant as quickly as possible; if you wait too long, you may need a bone graft in order to get a dental implant.
They increase self-confidence.
As dentistry has improved, so have the materials used to replace missing teeth. Bridges and implants often look completely natural, and even dentures can fly under the radar, too. What does become obvious as time passes, however, is the sunken-in look that jawbone deterioration causes. This can make patients self-conscious and uncomfortable around others, afraid they’ll notice.
Since implants prevent this bone loss from happening, they preserve your natural face shape and help you to stay confident about your appearance. Additionally, dentures are prone to becoming loose and causing your speech to sound slurred; this can be embarrassing or cause others to have a hard time understanding you. Since implants are anchored into your jawbone, they look, act, and feel like normal teeth. You can carry on a conversation without worrying about them falling out or otherwise impairing your speech.
Dental bridges can last anywhere between five and fifteen years, while dentures last around five to eight years. Dentures may need to be adjusted or replaced due to bone loss so that they will fit properly, even if they are still in good condition. The crown on top of your implant may need to be replaced every fifteen years or so, though it can last longer with great oral hygiene. This means it lasts either as long or a bit longer than a bridge, but it does so without compromising the health of the teeth next to it. Additionally, the implant itself can last a lifetime. This durability and the fact that it preserves your long-term oral health means that it’s more cost-effective, likely saving you a lot of money on future treatments or the more frequent replacements that bridges or dentures require.
Good oral hygiene is incredibly important to ensure that any of these treatments last as long as possible. You should floss and use mouthwash daily in addition to brushing your teeth twice a day and visiting your dentist for regular cleanings. This is the basic level of care that you should be giving to your natural teeth in order to prevent cavities, but it’s also all that an implant needs to thrive.
Dental bridges require a bit more maintenance; when you floss your teeth, you must also carefully floss underneath the bridge and use a small brush to clean all the nooks between the teeth. Dentures need extra care as well, needing to be rinsed off after you eat, brushed clean daily, and soaked overnight. They must be handled with care so that you don’t damage them and have the added discomfort of requiring messy adhesives every time you need to put them in. Since implants feel and act like natural teeth, they don’t require the added time and care that other options do; they’re comfortable and so easy to clean that you don’t have to make any changes to a proper oral care routine.
Dental bridges, dentures, and dental implants are different solutions to the same problem. There are pros and cons to each treatment, making it important for you to discuss which option is best for you with Dr. Kucko; that said, implants are a great choice if you’re concerned about comfort, longevity, and your long-term oral health.