Though many great options exist for replacing missing teeth, dental implants are the best option to replicate the feeling and look of natural teeth. Why? Because unlike other restorations, they replace the missing tooth from the ground up.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth root. It takes the form of a screw, usually made out of titanium, that sits in the jaw where the removed tooth root used to be. The implant then acts as an anchor point for a restoration — such as a single crown if only replacing a single tooth, or a bridge if replacing several teeth at once.
Dental Implant Procedure
Firstly, the natural tooth needs to be removed. This sometimes happens long before a patient even considers a dental implant; sometimes it happens as the first stage of the process.
Then a mold is taken of your mouth so that the restoration (crown, bridge, etc.) can be made to fit with the rest of your teeth. This is important to making sure you get the most out of the implant and don’t damage otherwise healthy teeth.
Now the implant is inserted into the jaw. This is a surgical procedure that involves drilling into the jaw bone and inserting the implant. The gum is stitched back over the surgical site and allowed to heal for several months. This healing period allows the implant to fuse to the bone and become as stable as a natural tooth root.
Finally, the restoration is connected to the implant.
Overall the process takes several months, mostly due to the necessary healing time between inserting the implant and being able to use it properly.
When Would You Need a Dental Implants?
It’s always best to replace missing teeth. It keeps our mouths healthy, our bites strong, and also prevents our bones from shrinking.
Our bodies are constantly creating and reabsorbing cells. This means that over time our bones will gradually change their shape. It’s why we look different as we get older. When we extract teeth, we leave gaps in the bone itself where a tooth root used to be. As our bodies continue to subtly change, those gaps start to fill in, resulting in our jaws losing bone volume over time.
Who Can get Dental Implants?
Almost anyone missing a permanent tooth is a candidate for a dental implant.
Health wise, there are a few contra-indicators for dental implants, including:
- Severe gum disease and periodontitis.
- Insufficient bone volume.
Are there alternatives to dental implants?
There are many alternatives when it comes to replacing the crowns (the part visible above the gum) of teeth. These include things like bridges, partial dentures, and full dentures. However, only dental implants restore the full functionality of a missing tooth, root and all.