As readers of our LA dentistry blog will know, broken or chipped teeth are a relatively easy fix. Fillings are usually non-invasive and lasting. Deciding which material to use can be more complicated than the procedure itself.
When a tooth is missing entirely, however, the solution isn’t so straightforward. Missing teeth require dental implants. The more teeth are missing, the more elaborate the implant. The process, though tried and commonplace for dental surgeons and periodontists, is necessarily severe.
Like many dental procedures, implants are both cosmetic and functional from a basic health perspective. On the one hand, missing teeth are embarrassing and, potentially, painful. They can disrupt speech patterns and eating mechanics, as well as smiles. On the other hand, they also pose a series of potentially grave oral health risks.
Principal among these is the potential for serious bone damage to the jaw. When you lose a tooth, the alveolar bone that once lodged the root begins to erode. This can weaken the surrounding teeth or otherwise destabilise the entire jawline. The socket created by the absent tooth, moreover, can become a site of infection.
Luckily, dental implants are an effective treatment for dealing with even the worst cases of tooth loss. Whether to replace a single tooth or fill an entire mouth with dentures, implants are the best way to get to the root of the problem (more bad dentist humor). That’s because the solution starts in the same place the problem does: the jaw.
The implant itself is drilled down into the jawline in place of the missing tooth. Incisions can be made to fit to the size of the new crown, or so that a flap of gum is left over to sheath the implant. Typically made of titanium, the implant fuses with the jaw bone over the course of the recovery process. This is what makes implants so effective. It’s still important that the hole be drilled to fit the tooth snugly, but eventually, the jaw will grow to fit the filling on its own.
From there, a retaining screw is screwed in to the inside of the implant, and a device called an abutment connector is used to attach the crown. In this way, the implant is actually a series of distinct parts that can be replaced individually in the event that anything should happen. This improves the longevity of the implant and prevents any sort of catastrophic device failure.
The cap is generally porcelain and, like a veneer, can be made to match the color of the surrounding teeth. Also like a veneer, or like another cap or filling, regular maintenance is required to ensure the implant lasts and the surrounding gum and bone remains healthy.
Other kinds of implants are also available, but ones that drill into the jawline are preferred, as they most accurately replicate the conditions of a regular tooth. The only noticeable difference between the implant and the rest of the smile has to do with sensation. Because the implant is not attached to any nerves, there is no feeling in the tooth. This presents the risk that a patient may put an undue amount of pressure repeatedly on the cap, which can fracture as a result. A good dentist, however, will take the rest of the mouth into account and fashion a cap that coincides with a patient’s bite.
Bone strength is another concern going into the procedure, as a weak or already deteriorated jaw could require additional bone-growing measures prior to surgery, or prevent surgery altogether. The greatest risk is that the implant or screw should break during or after surgery, which is unlikely, but is irreversible once it occurs.
For a free consultation to see if you qualify for dental implants, contact Dr. Jamie Sands today.