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What are Dental Implants and Who Are They For?

A dental implant is one of the best solutions for missing or damaged teeth. When teeth are missing in your mouth, several serious conditions can develop, including misaligned teeth, bone loss and gum disease. A dental implant fulfills the function of a natural tooth and may last for decades. A metal post is implanted into your jawbone. Over a few weeks, the bone will grow over the post in the same way it does over a natural tooth root. A replacement tooth or crown is then attached to the post.

Who Can Benefit from Implants?

Anyone with a fully developed jaw can benefit from implants. Generally, children are not given implants, but the jaw may become fully developed by 17 or 18 years. The age may be different for boys and girls. Growth in males may continue until about 20 – 23 years. Girls may complete jawbone development earlier.

What Are the Main Benefits of Implants?

Implants are the next best thing to a healthy tooth. They stop bone loss in the jaw and function, look and feel like a natural tooth. Most of the other options to fill gaps between the teeth may interfere with eating, speaking and laughing and may contribute to bone loss. Here are a few reasons implants are a better solution than other options to restore missing teeth:

• Implants are strong and a long-term solution. They do not shift or make sound when you speak as some temporary bridges do. Traditional bridges usually only last five to seven years. When implants are properly cared for and checked periodically by your dentist, they can last your whole life. They are brushed and flossed just like a natural tooth.

• A dental implant is a permanent solution. You will never again be embarrassed to smile or worry that your appearance may hamper your social life or your chances of getting your dream job. It will support your cheeks and retain the natural shape of your face. With missing teeth, your face may sag and fall into the empty spaces. Implants stay in your mouth. They are not removable and do not need to be taken out at night and put into a cup.

• Bone loss in your jaw is a serious condition. Implants actually stimulate bone growth just as a natural tooth does. When there is no tooth to support, the bone starts to deteriorate and become susceptible to the bacteria that cause periodontitis or gum disease. Once this develops, other teeth may become loose and start to fall out. Studies show that there is a higher risk of developing heart disease or having difficulty controlling blood sugar for people who have periodontal disease when compared to people who do not have gum disease.

• You need not have any dietary restrictions with implants. You can eat your favorite foods and bite naturally. Unlike bridges and partial dentures, implants will not shift while you are chewing. You can relax and enjoy your food without worrying that you may embarrass yourself.

• Since implants fill gaps in your teeth just like a natural tooth does, your healthy teeth are protected. They cannot shift position and cause more gaps or overcrowding, and when the jawbone is healthy, all of your teeth benefit. A fixed bridge requires modifying healthy teeth. It is never a good idea to change something that is already working well. With implants, only the gap is treated, the teeth on either side are untouched.

• Implants have proven over the years to be more predictable than other methods of repair or restoration of missing teeth. The long-term success is evident compared to bridgework, retreatment of a failed root canal and removable appliances.

 What Are the Different Options?

You can replace one tooth with a dental implant. You may also replace multiple teeth, each with an individual crown. Implants can also support a fixed bridge or an overdenture. It may take multiple visits, but you can replace all of your teeth with implants. This is like getting a completely new set of teeth without the discomfort and inconvenience of dentures. Goes without saying that you should consult an expert before making any decisions.

Rebuild the Bone

Some people do not have enough strong jawbone to support implants. In this case, there are techniques that can be done to rebuild the bone so you can have implants. Weak bone may be caused by gum disease, injury, long-term dentures and spaces left in the mouth after tooth extraction. The most common techniques used to rebuild bone are bone grafts, a sinus lift that augments the bone in the sinus area and ridge modification in which bone graft material is added to the small space along the top of the jaw.

A dental implant is the standard for replacing missing or damaged teeth. It not only looks, feels and functions like a natural tooth, it also stimulates bone growth in the jaw and contributes to the overall health of the individual.

 

Image courtesy of [cooldesign] at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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