During the last 20 years, dental implants have become a desirable alternative to other methods of replacing missing teeth. Excellent success rates and a range of available options give dentists a variety of new ways to treat and replace lost teeth.
Dental implants play an essential role in restorative dentistry. Because they are permanent prosthetics that are both natural-looking and cosmetically appealing, implants can be used either for cosmetic purposes or for complete full-mouth restorations.
Using Dental Implants in Restorative Dentistry
When a single tooth is lost, other teeth surrounding it may begin to shift, resulting in an unsightly appearance. In the past, bridges were the preferred method of cosmetic restoration, but surrounding teeth had to be damaged in order to support the prosthesis. As an alternative, many patients seek dental implants as a means of improving cosmetic appearance following the loss of a tooth. A dental implant has the look, feel and function of a natural tooth, and it’s positioning within the bone where the prior tooth was once rooted prevents other teeth from shifting out of place. The result is a visually appealing smile the wearer can be proud of.
In some cases, all of a patient’s teeth need to be replaced due to decay or other oral health complications. The teeth are vital to communication and digestion, so replacement is no longer a matter of cosmetic preference – but necessity. Options for full mouth restoration are limited to dentures or dental implants. More and more patients are choosing implants over dentures, as they provide a permanent solution that requires less maintenance and also preserves more of the natural maxillofacial bones surrounding the teeth.
Who Qualifies for Dental Implants?
Your dentist can evaluate your case and tell you if you are a candidate for dental implants. Structurally, a dental implant is a titanium-based cylinder that replaces the missing tooth root. After a period of time, other parts are placed on the implant to enable your dentist to eventually place a crown (cap) on the implant. Implants can also be used to support full or partial dentures, dramatically improving denture retention and stability.
Most patients with adequate bone mass can have implants, although it varies among individuals. Typically an x-ray and CT-scan are performed to determine if you have enough bone to place the implant, as well as to verify the size and kind of implant that should be placed.
Benefits of Dental Implants
When compared to fixed bridges and removable dentures supported by other teeth or gum tissue, implants offer numerous advantages:
1. Better esthetics:
Since implants are placed in the gum similar to the way a natural tooth is supported, they offer a more realistic and natural look compared to other alternatives.
2. Reduction of bone resorption:
When a tooth is lost, the supporting bone structure gradually recedes. Placing an implant in that empty space significantly reduces the speed of bone resorption and provides stability for this valuable tissue.
Patients who have experienced removable full or partial dentures know that keeping their dentures in place is always a challenge. Dental implants offer a great improvement to denture retention for all patients. In some cases the denture can be secured to a group of implants with special screws that stabilize the denture completely.
4. Preserving natural tooth structure:
Often the preferred method of replacing a single missing tooth is a bridge. Bridges require extra preparation for the surrounding teeth to ultimately connect 3 or more teeth. This negatively impacts your health by making the task of retaining your teeth more difficult and by often requiring the destruction of existing tooth structure to create room for the new bridge. An implant is mostly an independent unit and does not negatively affect the adjacent teeth.