We all love a perfect smile. But, it can be very upsetting when you have missing or damaged teeth.
Studies show there is an emotional impact with tooth loss. People are more likely to feel self-conscious, less willing to carry out everyday activities, and unhappy with the inevitable change in facial shape.
Certainly, dentures offer a reasonable replacement for tooth loss. But there is a downside—slipping while talking or getting food caught underneath. That’s why many people choose dental implants as an alternative.
“In the event of lost teeth, it is a fixed option,” says Dr. Caressa Louie, who practices cosmetic and reconstructive dentistry in Stockton, “They help you chew and replace the missing function.”
A dental implant is a prosthesis and acts like a tooth’s root. Surgically inserted into the jawbone, the titanium post is attached to an abutment connecting it to the crown. Implants, closely resembling a screw, fuse to the jawbone through a process known as osseointegration. Implants can’t come loose like dentures and they don’t attach to other teeth like bridges.
So, what are the pros and cons?
The upside is that implants look real and function like actual teeth. Depending on your needs, you can get single implants or multiples as part of a greater tooth restoration plan. Implants can get a little pricey, however. On average, you can expect a $3,000 to $5,000 price tag.
Because they are permanent, your long-term dental care costs will be lower. Yet, some individuals may require a bone graft for the procedure to work properly.
“Nobody likes to be told they can’t have implants but sometimes there are factors that are out of our control,” says Dr. Todd Franklin, a family and cosmetic dentist in Lodi. “Many times, patients have lost a tooth and many years have gone by and the bone levels are not where they need to be to place the implants.”
Implants may take several weeks to heal and can cause some discomfort. The whole process from beginning to end takes about six months but can last up to a year.
What makes a person NOT a good candidate for implants?
Patients with certain health issues may be considered unsuitable for the procedure. As Dr. Franklin explains, there is a “systemic link” between oral health and overall medical health.
“Any patients who are medically compromised often have issues with their oral health,” he says. “Some may be able to overcome some acute problems. But if a patient suffers from a chronic illness, such as uncontrolled diabetes, they would not be a good candidate.”
There is also the possibility of infection. It can happen shortly after the procedure or even some time later if your immune system is compromised by other health problems.
“If you’re a smoker,” says Dr. Louie, “that is a horrible systemic condition in which you can lose teeth and bone to begin with.”
What about implant care?
Dr. Louie also points out that the component can fail if the screw breaks, for example. There are a number of reasons behind tooth loss including age, congenital conditions, or even sports injuries.
“Teeth are like God-made implants,” says Dr. Louie. “Your next best set is a man-made one.”
The market for dental implants will continue to expand. According to a recent press release from the Global Dental Implants Market, the industry has been growing at a steady pace and is expected to continue with more than 200 million patients worldwide by 2030.
But while implants may be a sturdier long-term option, Dr. Louie maintains that you still have to take care of your teeth and get regular check-ups. Dr. Franklin heartily agrees.
“One may think that once an implant is placed that it can be ignored. Routine dental care is always a must for anyone who has implants,” he says. “A patient can still lose an implant if they start to have gum disease. Also, it is important for a trained dental professional to check the implants on a regular basis to make sure all aspects of the implant are in tip top shape.”
For More Information:
Dr. Caressa Louie
Dr. Todd Franklin