If you have lost one or more teeth, you realize that you have several options for replacing that lost tooth: removable dentures, dental bridges, and dental implants. You might have heard that dental implants are the best, but what makes them the best? Simply put, it’s because they are the most like your natural teeth of any tooth replacement. This lets them offer benefits that other tooth replacements simply can’t match.
The Most Tooth-Like Replacement
Of all the tooth replacement options, dental implants are the most like your natural teeth. The implant is an artificial tooth root, which can bond with your jawbone, similar to the way natural teeth do. This lets them offer benefits that come from this direct bond.
Dental Implants Support Themselves
Other replacement teeth need to be supported by your natural teeth. A removable denture sits on your gums, but has hooks and clasps that go around neighboring teeth for security and support. A dental bridge is supported by dental crowns over neighboring teeth, which provide stability.
A benefit of implant dentistry is that it places the titanium root directly in the jawbone, which then bonds with the bone in a process called osseointegration. Once integrated with the bone, the implant is fully fixed, providing good function over the long term.
Dental Implants Support Bone and Gums
One benefit of the implant having a tooth root is that it provides support for the jawbone and gingiva (gum tissue). Where a dental bridge might allow bone loss under it because there’s no tooth root, and removable dentures might actually stimulate bone loss through pressure on the top of the bone, dental implants stimulate bone growth. If you have dental implants, you will maintain jawbone. The jawbone will support your gums, so you’ll maintain your gum tissue, too.
Dental Implants Can Last a Lifetime
One of the signature benefits of dental implants is their longevity, matched by few cosmetic dentistry procedures. Clinical studies that are 10, 20, even 30 years long show survival rates for implants over 90%. There is no indication that these studies have reached the effective maximum lifetime for dental implants. In fact, there is no reason to believe that implants can’t last a lifetime.
There are caveats, however. First, implants have a pronounced “wearing in” period when they have to integrate with the jawbone. Failure to integrate with the bone is one of the leading causes of implant failure, accounting for approximately half of all implant failures.
Second, implants are subject to some of the same perils that face your natural teeth. Implants can get gum disease (it’s called peri-implantitis, rather than periodontitis, but it’s essentially the same condition). Good oral hygiene can help you maintain good oral health and this will protect your implants so they can last as long as possible.
Functional Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants aren’t just structurally like your natural teeth, they offer all the functional benefits of your natural teeth.
Normal Bite Force
With removable dentures, you experience a considerable loss of bite force. That’s because removable dentures aren’t supported by your bone: they rest on your gums. This means you can’t bite down as hard as you would with your natural teeth. The result is that you will have to alter your eating habits considerably. You might change your chewing method and cut your food into smaller pieces. You may even have to give up some hard-to-chew foods.
But with dental implants, bite force can be directed into the bone. The benefit of this is that you can bite down almost as hard as you would with natural teeth. You can keep enjoying all the foods you enjoyed with your natural teeth.
No Risk to Natural Teeth
Ideally, replacing one lost tooth wouldn’t put your remaining natural teeth at risk. But that’s what can happen with removable dentures and dental bridges.
Removable dentures have clasps and hooks that go over your natural teeth for support. Often, these are metal, and the metal can cause considerable wear on your natural teeth. Even if the support structures are soft, they cause bacteria and food residue to collect on the natural teeth. This can accelerate tooth decay and periodontal disease, which can lead to premature loss of the supporting teeth.
With dental bridges, the potential risk to natural teeth is even greater. Dental bridges are supported by dental crowns placed over natural teeth. To place a dental crown, we have to remove natural tooth structure, often healthy tooth structure. This weakens the supporting teeth, and can make them more susceptible to decay, damage, and even failure. Even worse, the supporting teeth are being asked to bear greater bite forces, which also puts the teeth at risk.
The risk is greatest when a cantilever bridge is used. In this structure, a single tooth is supporting an artificial tooth with no support on the other side. This puts angled stress on the tooth, which can torque and pull the tooth. These forces are not unlike a “tooth key,” a primitive extraction tool popular among dentists in the nineteenth century.
Dental implants support themselves. Barring an error during the surgical procedure, dental implants pose no risk to your natural teeth. If anything, they have the benefit of providing good support to natural teeth. The strong bond between the implant and the jawbone makes the implant a strong brace for natural teeth.
Applicable in Most Situations
Because of the risks and limits above, dental bridges aren’t a good solution in many tooth loss situations. Dentists recommend against using bridges when they will put the supporting teeth at undue risk, either from decay or excessive force. This includes situations where there aren’t teeth to support them on both sides. And dental bridges are usually limited to three units (two teeth supporting a single tooth replacement) to reduce the risk of failure.
But dental implants work in almost any situation. They can replace a single lost tooth, or replace an entire arch of teeth.
Almost everyone can enjoy the benefits of dental implants. A good candidate for dental implants only has to meet three criteria:
- Have one or more missing teeth
- Be an adult whose jaw has finished growing
- Be healthy enough for surgery
Prior bone loss due to gum disease or using a different tooth replacement might require bone grafting. Your dentist will want to treat gum disease before placing dental implants, too.
Each case must be evaluated individually. Most medical conditions do not prevent you from getting dental implants. However, there are some considerations. Your dentist will have to design an appropriate treatment plan. It’s also possible you might have a lower success rate because of your medical condition. Talk to your dentist about your condition to make an informed decision. Working with an experienced implant dentist, periodontist, or oral surgeon can help counter these risks to improve the odds of successful dental implants.
Limitations of Dental Implants
Despite their benefits, dental implants still have limitations. The limitations of implants might mean that you either can’t or don’t want to get them.
Only Appropriate for Adults
While implants are similar to natural teeth, they’re not identical. Implants don’t respond to bone growth and pressure the way natural teeth do. This could cause problems as your jaw grows around an implant.
As a result, implants are only appropriate for adults whose jaws have finished growing.
Removable dentures and dental bridges don’t require surgery. However, placing dental implants requires a surgical procedure. Some people might not be healthy enough for surgery. Other people might be uncomfortable or fearful at the thought of implant surgery.
Of course, there is little to fear from dental implant surgery. Complication rates are low. People experience little discomfort during or after the procedure. However, dental anxiety is common, which makes some people opt against getting dental implants. Drug-free relaxation dentistry can help many people overcome their anxiety to enjoy the benefits of dental implants.
Cost of Dental Implants
One of the biggest limiting factors for implants is their cost. In general, they are more expensive than other treatment alternatives. While the benefits of dental implants make them a worthwhile investment, not everyone is capable or prepared of paying the cost of dental implants. Financing, of course, makes this easier than ever, but not everyone is comfortable with the thought of financing their dental care.
Are Dental Implants Right for You?
Are you looking to replace a lost tooth or teeth in Blue Bell, PA? When you look at the options, you will realize that dental implants offer numerous benefits–but are they the best option for you? Please call (610) 272-0828 today for an appointment with implant dentist Dr. Ken Siegel at Dental Excellence of Blue Bell.