Usually, when you lose a tooth, it is best for your oral health to have it replaced. Missing teeth can affect your “bite” as well as your ability to speak and chew. Their loss can increase the burden on your remaining teeth and can cause muscle pain in your jaws and headaches. And of course, losing a tooth can affect your appearance.
The good news is that, most of the time, replacing a missing tooth is not an emergency. You have time to consider what replacement option is best for you and to make an informed decision. Below we will discuss all the different options available including: dental implants, dental bridge, and removable dental appliances.
What are My Tooth Replacement Options?
If you are missing one or more teeth and choose to have it or them replaced, several treatment options are available.
- A “flipper” is a removable plastic tooth that is inexpensive but fragile and temporary.
- A cast partial denture also is removable but is precision cast in metal for longer service life. Wire clips help hold it in place.
- A fixed bridge is cemented into place using crowns or “caps” on the teeth adjacent to the open space for support. Crown placement usually requires removing or reducing the outer layer of the tooth. In some cases, a “Maryland” bridge, a fixed bridge that does not need crowns, is glued onto the back of the teeth adjacent to the space so that minimal tooth structure is removed.
- Full dentures or “plates” are the traditional solution for people who have lost all their teeth in one or both jaws. The success of a full denture depends upon the individual’s jaw size and shape, his or her oral habits, and his or her adaptability. Some people adapt well to full dentures, while others are not able to adapt. Dental implants can be used to provide support for the replacement of one tooth or all of an individual’s teeth. After years of research and clinical trials, we can now provide this option in addition to the traditional treatments just described. Implant-supported teeth can be cemented, screw-retained, or removable and can be made attractive, stable, and comfortable for almost any patient.
Are Dental Implants an Option for Me?
If you are considering dental implants, your mouth will be examined thoroughly and your dental and medical history will be reviewed to ensure that dental implants are appropriate for you. Dental x-rays and, frequently, panoramic (or complete) x-rays, or a 3-D scan of your jaws will be taken to evaluate your jawbone and to determine if it will accommodate dental implants. There are many cases when teeth can be immediately replaced with implants. Occasionally, more detailed information is required and can be provided by special x-rays. They will help determine if additional tests or procedures are needed to place your implants properly.
What is a Dental Implant?
The best way to describe a dental implant is to compare it to a real tooth. A natural tooth consists of a root and a crown. The part of the tooth that you see and eat with is called the crown. Beneath the crown is the root, which anchors the tooth through the gum tissue to the jawbone. When you lose a tooth, you lose both the root and the crown. To replace a tooth, we first have to replace the root. Essentially, a dental implant is a new root. This titanium root is fitted into a socket that we create in your jaw, replacing the lost root of your natural tooth.
Dental implants come in various shapes and sizes and have different types of surfaces. The actual implant selection will depend on a variety of factors related to your specific treatment needs and the most appropriate one(s) will be used. In selected cases the missing teeth can be immediately replaced with an implant with out wait period thus providing patients with the convenience of never having to have a removable prosthetic. Once an implant has been placed in the jaw, the bone around the implant will need to heal from anywhere from six weeks to four months, depending upon how hard the bone is. When this initial phase of healing is completed, a support post called an abutment will be placed into the implant itself and then a new crown will be placed on top. If all of your teeth are missing, a variety of treatment options are available to support the replacement teeth.
How are Dental Implants Placed?
For your comfort we can perform any of our surgical procedures under IV sedation or “twilight sleep.”
Usually, the office procedure to place a dental implant takes about an hour for one implant and no more than two or three hours for multiple implants. The placement process consists of the following steps:
If indicated, you will be given medication such as antibiotics prior to the surgery. You may be offered sedation with nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”) or intravenous medications. Then, a local anesthetic will be administered to numb the areas where the implants will be placed.
After you are comfortable, a small incision is made into the gum tissue, revealing the bone into which the implant will be placed.
Using special instruments, a socket is created carefully, avoiding damage to the bone.
The titanium implant is then inserted into the socket.
Finally, if necessary, sutures will be used.
After the implant is placed, the area will need to heal between six weeks to four months. How long your mouth will need to heal will be determined by a variety of factors. Follow-up care (one to four appointments) is usually needed to ensure that your mouth is healing well and to determine when you are ready for the restorative phase of your treatment.
In general, once your implants are placed, you can expect your treatment to be completed anywhere from two to 12 months. For these reasons, it is difficult for us to tell you exactly how much the restorative phase of your treatment will cost, although you should receive a reasonable estimate of costs . It also is difficult to give you a specific time frame for completion of your treatment until after the implants are ready for restoration.
Learn more about the advanced X-NAV technology that we use in our office.