Many adults will lose one or more teeth in their lifetime. The gap in your smile leaves you with options – should you get a bridge? Dentures? Nothing at all? Or perhaps a dental implant! There’s a lot to know about getting an implant. Doing some research before a consultation with your dentist can help you come up with questions to ask that get you one step closer to replacing that gap with a tooth implant.
First, consider the alternatives to tooth implants.
Often a first choice for one to four missing teeth, a bridge is a device that is anchored to the adjacent teeth. A filler tooth or teeth (called pontics) which are crafted to appear like your existing teeth are permanently affixed in your mouth. A bridge looks like a natural part of your smile. It is less expensive than a tooth implant and may be the right choice for you.
There are some drawbacks, though. The teeth adjacent to the gap must be prepared (ground down) for the part of the bridge that affixes to them. For healthy teeth, it is not always in your best interest to remove a portion of these teeth and grind them down to support a bridge. If there is damage, decay, or infection in the abutment (anchor) teeth, the bridge will have to be removed. And if the gap is from the loss of more than four teeth, a bridge connected to abutment teeth will put too much pressure on them and they or the bridge could crack.
For missing teeth, dentures are a simple and economical way for restoration. There is a wide price range depending on the quality and source of dentures, and those that are on the less expensive end appear less like natural teeth and are more likely to fit poorly and can cause damage to the gums which can lead to a slew of other issues. Dentures are removable devices with false teeth that fit in your mouth with or without adhesive to hold them still. People with dentures may find it difficult to pronounce certain sounds and to chew. Dentures may be a great short-term solution for missing teeth but most people find them to be a poor substitute.
Dental implants provide a permanent, natural-looking tooth that functions identically to your own teeth. It is the only tooth replacement that generally avoids bone loss and can even encourage bone growth. Dental implants require surgery to be affixed in your jaw and it is a multi-step, sometimes long-term process. If there is enough bone to support it, a metal post is surgically implanted into the jawbone. The next step cannot occur until the post fuses into the jawbone permanently (osseointegration), which can take up to 6 months. A temporary crown can be fitted onto the post while you wait. Your dentist then attaches a permanent crown that feels just like your own tooth.
Although the finished product is superior in look, feel, and longevity, not everyone is a candidate for implants. The patient must have sufficient bone structure at the site where the post on which the new tooth will be attached. Good general health is highly recommended because of the susceptibility to infection. Gum disease may prevent you from having a successful tooth implant, and patients with osteoporosis may require a bone graft before the post can be implanted.
Besides being lengthy process, implants are expensive and rarely covered by insurance. However, the implants look and feel like your own permanent teeth. Talk to your dentist to discuss whether tooth implants are the best decision for you.
If you live in the Las Vegas area, trust the team at Dedicated Dental to care for your teeth. Our dentists provide expert tooth replacement services including bridges and crowns. Since 2006 they have treated patients ages 4 and up at their office in Henderson. For an appointment, call (702) 566-5509 to speak with one of our friendly office staff today!