Benefits of Dental Implants
Natural-Looking, Durable Solutions for Missing Teeth
Dental implants are a stable, long-lasting replacement option for teeth that are missing or have been damaged beyond repair and are in need of extraction. Due to their many benefits, dental implants are considered the modern gold standard of tooth replacement. If they are properly placed and cared for, they can last a lifetime.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a titanium post that is inserted into your jawbone to act as a stable foundation for a replacement tooth. Titanium is a biocompatible material that has the special property of fully integrating with human bone tissue, essentially becoming one with your jawbone. This creates a very stable base on which a replacement tooth (i.e. a crown), bridge or denture can be placed.
Dr. Bartlett began placing implants in 2005 as part of her General Practice Residency at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Dallas, TX and has recently renewed her commitment to implant dentistry by completing a mini-residency with Alabama Implant Education. In most cases, she is able to take care of the entire implant treatment process from start to finish, including treatment planning and placement of the implant posts as well as the design, fabrication and mounting of your artificial replacement teeth.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants can last a lifetime
Other forms of tooth replacement, such as bridges and dentures, have a limited life span. Bridges last on average 7-10 years before they need to be replaced. Dentures lose their fit over time due to bone loss, so that they have to be continually relined or even an entirely new denture has to be fabricated. Titanium implants are durable and non-corrosive. If they are properly placed and cared for, they can last a lifetime.
Dental implants behave like natural teeth
Most patients say they can’t tell the difference between their implants and their natural teeth. An individual implant that replaces a single tooth looks indistinguishable from a natural tooth and provides full chewing power that allows you to eat completely normally. Implant-supported bridges and dentures that replace multiple teeth are also very lifelike and, depending on the type of restoration, can provide between 70 to 90 percent of natural chewing power. No matter how many teeth you are replacing, implant-supported tooth restorations are the closest you can get to natural teeth in terms of the way they look, act and feel.
Dental implants prevent bone loss
Bone in the jaw constantly regenerates, stimulated by the chewing and biting forces on your tooth roots. When teeth are missing, this stimulation ceases and bone no longer regenerates. This causes the bone in your jaw to deteriorate and shrink over time. The bone in the area of a missing tooth loses 25 percent of its volume in the first year after loss of the tooth, and bone loss continues over the years.
Regular dentures (not supported by implants) do nothing to prevent bone loss and in fact even accelerate bone loss as they rub against the bony ridge of your dental arch, gradually wearing it away. Implants replace your natural tooth roots and they provide the necessary stimulation that your jawbone needs to continue regenerating.
Dental implants keep adjacent teeth stably in place
The space left by a missing tooth can destabilize surrounding teeth. Adjacent teeth can start shifting into the empty space, allowing your teeth to move out of position over time. This can affect your bite and your ability to chew properly. A poor bite can also lead to problems with your jaw joint and can cause headaches and jaw pain if not treated.
Dental implants can help keep you free of gum disease
Gaps between teeth can act as traps for food and bacteria and this can lead to gum disease. This is prevented by replacing the missing tooth with a dental implant.
Dental implants can prevent facial sagging and premature aging
Dental implants can prevent the bone loss that causes facial sagging in people who have all or many of their teeth missing. When most of the teeth are missing, progressive bone loss will decrease the volume of bone in the jaws, causing the lower third of the face to sag and get a “collapsed” look. The lips can also become thinner and the chin more pointed, causing the person look older than he or she really is.
Dental Implants vs. Dentures
Stable teeth with good chewing power
Dental implants have many advantages over traditional dentures. Traditional dentures are not as stable and they lose their fit over time due to progressive bone loss. When bone loss is excessive, it eventually becomes difficult to keep any denture stable or well-fitting. The most frustrating aspect of dentures is the poor chewing power they provide (approximately 30 percent of natural chewing power).
If you are deciding between traditional dentures or an implant-supported restoration, here are some things to consider.
- Dentures often have to be kept in the mouth by using a dental adhesive.
- Dentures cover the roof of the mouth, inhibiting your sense of taste. Regular dentures have a false palate that covers the roof of your mouth, interfering with your sense of taste. Implant-supported dentures normally leave the roof of your mouth free, allowing you to fully enjoy your food.
- Dentures can slip out while eating or speaking. Regular dentures can often slip out of place while you eat or speak. Implants and implant-supported dentures are securely anchored and stable in your mouth.
- Dentures make chewing difficult, and you may be unable to eat many of the foods you like or need. Dentures can move around in your mouth while you chew, which is annoying and can make chewing difficult. Dentures generally only provide 30 percent of natural chewing power, making it impossible to eat many of the foods you like or need to eat for proper nutrition. Dentures that are supported by implants provide considerably increased chewing power (70 to 90 percent).
- Dentures can click or make noises while eating or speaking. Because dentures can move around in your mouth, they can click or make other noises while you eat or speak. Implant-supported dentures are stable in your mouth and do not make any noises.
- Dentures don’t provide the stimulation needed to prevent bone loss. Jawbone needs continual stimulation by natural chewing and biting pressure to retain its volume. Implants help prevent bone loss by transmitting this pressure to the jawbone in the same way as natural tooth roots do.
- Progressive bone loss as a result of wearing dentures can cause facial collapse. Over the years, bone loss in your jawbone can cause the collapse of the lower third of your face, creating wrinkles, sagging skin, thinning lips and a sunken-in, “collapsed” look. This can make you look much older than you really are.
Dental Implants vs. Dental Bridges
A bridge is normally used to replace one or two missing teeth. It consists of a series of connected crowns, with the outer crowns being supported by the natural teeth on either side of the empty space.
A bridge requires two natural teeth to be shaved down in preparation for its placement. Unless those teeth are decayed or damaged and thus already in need of repair, this is not the most ideal way of replacing a missing tooth as it involves the removal of natural, healthy tooth structure—something we always try to avoid if possible. A dental implant replaces a missing tooth without necessitating the removal of any healthy tooth structure from adjacent teeth. The implant post is simply placed in the space of the missing tooth and provides a stable, independent foundation for a replacement tooth.
Additionally, bridges tend to have a relatively short lifespan—usually seven to ten years—compared to a dental implant which can last a lifetime with proper care. A bridge will eventually need to be replaced. While a bridge can sometimes be a more economical option in the short term, in the long run a dental implant can cost you less and also save you from needing to undergo additional dental procedures.
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