Missing teeth are a social embarrassment and make it difficult to chew. They’re also a problem waiting to happen.
The contact surfaces between teeth help hold each of them in position in your bite. When a tooth is lost, the neighboring teeth are no longer held in place and may begin to “drift.” This can change how your bite comes together and may lead to excessive wear on one or more teeth as well as discomfort. As well, the drifting can open up embarrassing gaps between your teeth.
You may have heard of dental implants. If so, and if you have one or more missing teeth, you’ve probably wondered whether dental implants might be right for you.
Traditional Dental Implants
A traditional implant is a small prosthetic screw that is inserted into the bone where your tooth is missing. The implant is made of a very strong material, like titanium, that won’t react with the body once it’s in place.
After a period of time, generally about six months, your existing bone grows over and fuses to the part of the metal implant below the gumline. When that process is complete, a dental crown (an “artificial tooth”) is firmly attached to the implant to fill the space where the original tooth used to be. This restores both the function and the appearance of the missing tooth.
The prosthetic and the crown together are usually what most people think of as a dental implant.
Dental implants are very strong and restore most of the chewing power of your natural teeth. But because chewing exerts tremendous force on the underlying bone, one of the most important factors is the strength and thickness of that bone.
When a tooth is lost, the underlying bone begins to deteriorate. This happens to everyone, although the rate at which bone is lost can vary. So, if you’ve been missing a tooth for many years, there may not be enough bone left to allow for a traditional implant.
As the name suggests, mini-implants are also inserted into the underlying bone. However, instead of a single screw anchoring the crown, you’ll have several smaller implants. This spreads the pressure of chewing across a broader area and reduces the stress in any one spot. This make mini-implants a possibility for people who don’t have enough remaining bone to allow a traditional implant.
After the bone fuses to the mini-implants, a crown is loaded onto the screws much like in traditional implants.
The implant itself should last as long as you live. Crowns have a pretty long lifespan – around ten years in most cases – and will likely need to be replaced. Replacement is a straightforward process of casting a new crown, detaching the old crown, and attaching the new one.
Implants: Many Options
Implants can anchor a single crown, permanent bridgework that replaces two or more teeth, or even an entire arch of missing teeth. Permanently anchored replacements have a number of advantages over removable bridgework or dentures.
Traditionally, having a permanent bridge placed requires that the neighboring teeth be ground down to accept crowns. The crowns, which are part of the bridgework, anchor it in place. Sometimes, the anchoring crowns can come loose, which requires them to be re-attached.
Implant-supported bridgework doesn’t require the neighboring teeth to be reduced.
Full-arch dentures are kept in place through a combination of suction and a dental adhesive, usually. Even so, they can move around in the mouth. Some people have even experienced the awkwardness of their dentures unexpectedly popping out out their mouth.
Any removable dental appliance can build up bacteria. That requires soaking in a disinfectant solution and careful brushing.
Implant-supported appliances don’t have these problems. Once they’re in place, they’ll stay firmly in place. You treat them like your own teeth, brushing them at least twice a day and flossing at least once.
Whether a traditional implant or mini-implants are an option for you depends on the results of a careful examination and X-rays of your bone. Dr. Sykora will carefully measure the thickness and density of your underlying bone and let you know the option that will work best for you.
Dr. K.C. Sykora is proud to offer dental implant services in our West Chester, PA office. If you’ve been wondering whether implants are right for you, call us at 610-315-7534. You can also send us a message using our online form. Just fill it out, click submit, and a member of our team will get back with you as soon as possible.