Dental implants are one of the most effective ways to replace missing teeth and restore a beautiful smile. They can be used to replace one tooth or several teeth, and they provide the most comparable replacement for the teeth you were born with. However, there are other options that some patients choose instead. Are dental implants right for you?
Dental implants are a replacement option for missing teeth, teeth that never had adult teeth underneath them, or teeth that need to be pulled. Instead of using a bridge or dentures that can be put in or taken out, dental implants use metal posts that are surgically connected to your jaw. The implant will be topped with an artificial replacement tooth that is realistic and designed to seamlessly blend in with your other teeth.
What Are Dental Implants Used For?
There are many different reasons why dental implants are used, and they are an ideal solution for many different dental challenges because they fuse directly to your jawbone and can act and function almost identically to your current teeth. Some of the signs that you are a good candidate for dental implants include:
- You have good oral health (other than the missing or damaged teeth)
- You have one or more teeth missing
- You are willing to maintain the dental implant using special floss and complete the multi-month process of having it finished
- You have enough jawbone present to be able to support the implant or you are interested in having a bone graft
- You do not have medical conditions that will make a dental implant not feasible
- You don’t smoke
If you are not sure whether or not you’re a good fit for implants, your dentist can help you to determine the best path forward.
You might be a poor candidate for dental implants if you currently have:
- Cancer or radiation to the jaw
- Untreated or severe gum disease
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- A prescription for specific types of medication that might make the healing process more complicated, like immunosuppressants
In many cases, these circumstances can be worked around or overcome. However, some of them might need to be addressed before the implant is placed, like untreated gum disease.
What Happens When You Get Dental Implants?
The dental implant process typically takes place over multiple appointments in order to ensure the best possible results. During your first appointment, you will be evaluated for the implant and have the damaged tooth removed. If your tooth is already removed and your jawbone has healed, your dentist will examine the bone density to determine if you should have a bone graft to add to the existing bone.
Next, the dental implant will be placed. This is a surgical procedure, but you will be able to resume normal activities right afterward in most cases. Once the surgery is done, your bone will be given time to heal before the abutment (the metal portion above the gums) is placed. Finally, you will have your artificial tooth, which looks similar to a crown, placed.
Are There Alternatives to Dental Implants?
Yes, there are numerous alternatives to dental implants that you can use. While they are often considered the best choice, sometimes financial situations make other options potentially more desirable. Other alternatives to dental implants that you can explore with your dentist include:
- Full Mouth Dentures: These dentures are what most people imagine when they think of dentures, as they will replace the teeth on both the top and bottom of the mouth. Full mouth dentures are commonly used when someone is missing all of their teeth or most of their teeth need to be removed. They are more affordable and are a single solution. However, dentures can lead to bone loss over time and they are never a perfect substitute for your real teeth like implants are.
- Partial Dentures: Partial dentures can be used if you have healthy teeth remaining but do need to replace at least one or more of your teeth. Partial dentures use a plastic base with the relevant teeth attached in a manner that will blend in with your other teeth. Partial dentures are not a perfect solution since they can be challenging to eat with, and they are not as comfortable as dental implants.
- Fixed Bridges: Unlike dentures, which can be removed and put back in, fixed bridges are permanently attached inside of your mouth. These are closer to the feel of normal teeth, but they do not feel as seamless or as natural as dental implants. However, because fixed bridges cannot be removed by anyone but your dentist, they can be challenging to clean around and may do damage to the teeth next to them over time.
Your dentist will work with you to search for the best tooth replacement option for your needs.