Most people have heard about dental implants and how wonderful they can be in replacing missing teeth or using them to anchor a set of dentures. But, not everyone is a good candidate for these super-strong and life-like tooth replacements. I have listed the five top questions I discuss every day with my patients who want to get rid of gaps, bridges, and uncomfortable dentures and replace them with permanent natural-looking dental implants.
- Amount of Bone is Key
The bottom part of an implant, the part that is actually ‘implanted’ is much like a screw that you might use to attach something together in your home. Just like at home, the screw has to have something to latch onto in order for the two items to stay together. In this case the screw uses jaw bone to grip securely in order to anchor the replacement tooth or denture.
The problem comes when you have lost a tooth or teeth, your jaw bone starts shrinking. The longer you have been missing a tooth, the more the bone will have shrunk. It literally collapses in and is reabsorbed by your body since it has lost its purpose for being there. It shrinks in height, width, and density. After a while, there won’t be enough for an implant to ‘latch on to’ and the risk of failure becomes too high. The only way to tell for sure is to x-ray the area and see exactly how much bone is there and if the bone is healthy and strong. Bone loss is the most common reason why people aren’t good candidates, but you won’t know for sure until your dentist sees the x-rays.
- Smokers Beware
Smokers, especially heavy smokers, have higher risks of implant failure. The mouth of a smoker takes much longer to heal, and sometimes never heals. The constant sucking during smoking disrupts the healing mechanism, and the bacteria and chemicals surrounding the implant site do not make for a healthy outcome. Generally, most practitioners will require quitting smoking before and during the healing process. Why not use this time to trade in that unhealthy habit for a healthy, beautiful new smile?
- General Health
Most well-controlled health issues are ok but there are a few that would rule out trying implants. HIV, uncontrolled diabetes, immune diseases should be discussed privately with your dentist or your physician. Also, known allergy to titanium might require using another material like zirconium, so this is an important detail to talk to your dentist about as well.
- Getting A Dental Implant Is A Process
Getting an implant is a process, one that can take months to complete. Sometimes we start with taking out the offending tooth, followed by bone grafting, if needed, and wait for that to completely heal before starting the actual implanting. Other times, mini implants can be used right after a tooth has been extracted if there is sufficient bone.
Regardless of the type of implant, healing takes time, and that’s a good thing. Time is required to let the implant and bone ‘fuse’ together so it will be stronger than your natural teeth. Only then do you get the crown or ‘cap’ put on and your smile completed. Of course, depending on the location in your mouth, we can make a removable device which will fill in for the missing teeth until healing is completed.
- Frequent Checkups Are A Must
Because getting dental implants is a multi-staged process, it is vital that you keep regular checkup appointments. This will make sure that the implant is “taking” to your mouth and that everything is going well. Even after the implant and crown or denture are placed, checkups are needed to confirm that your implant is staying healthy and free of complications.
If you want to learn more about dental implants or wonder if dental implants could be the solution for you, we offer complimentary dental implant consultations. If you’d like to schedule your free consultation, call us at 918-212-8300 or book your appointment online here.