Anytime you lose a tooth, you put a dent in your oral health. A missing tooth can alter your bite, cause added wear on other teeth, and lead to bone loss in your jaw. It may also make you self-conscious about your smile.
If you have one or a few missing teeth, there’s good news. Dental implants can give you a great smile again. Furthermore, unlike bridges, which can slip and slide, dental implants are placed permanently in your jawbone and function just like natural teeth.
In this blog, Virginia H. Ellis, DDS, of Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, explains more about what dental implants are and some of their many benefits.
How missing teeth can impact your oral and overall health
If you have missing teeth, this won’t just affect your smile. It could affect your oral and overall health as well. For example, the following problems could happen:
- Remaining teeth could shift and move into the gap
- You could have difficulty chewing and speaking
- You could be unable to eat certain foods, which could lead to dietary changes
- An inability to chew well could lead to digestion problems
Furthermore, teeth stimulate your jawbone to create new jaw tissue. If you have a missing tooth, there will be no stimulation in that part of your jaw. This could lead to shrinkage in that area of your jaw and cause nearby teeth to loosen or even fall out.
The advantages of dental implants
Dentures — which consist of false teeth that are attached to a metal or acrylic base, have been the go-to for a long time to replace missing teeth. However, they fail in a major way. They replace only the crowns of the teeth, which are the visible portions above the gumline. They don’t replace the roots of the teeth.
Dental implants, on the other hand, replace all parts of the tooth. They replace the crown, which is necessary to chew food and speak clearly, and they replace the root, too. That’s important, because the roots do two things: They hold your teeth in place and they stimulate the jawbone.
As you chew, the roots of your teeth stimulate your jaw, which signals your jaw to generate new tissue to replace old jawbone tissue. By getting an implant, your jaw will get the stimulation it needs to stay healthy.
The process of getting dental implants
There are three parts to an implant: the titanium tooth root, the abutment, and the crown. The root, which is also referred to as the implant, is inserted into the jaw. The abutment is secured to the top of the new tooth root, and the crown, or false tooth, is secured to the abutment. Here’s how the process goes in detail.
Inserting the implant
The initial step takes about 1-2 hours. First Dr. Ellis gives you anesthesia so you’re comfortable. Then she carefully makes one or more incisions in your gums, depending on how many implants she’s placing. Next, she drills tiny holes in your jawbone, into which she inserts the titanium post that will serve as the tooth root. Finally, she sutures your gums closed.
Taking time for healing
The next step is osseointegration, in which the bone tissue grows around the post and eventually fuses to it, securing it in the tooth socket. This takes 3-6 months on average, during which time Dr. Ellis provides you with a temporary crown to fill the gap left by the missing tooth.
Placing the permanent crown
Once the area heals, you come back to the office, and Dr. Ellis attaches an abutment on top of the implant, which serves to effectively connect it with your new crown. Once completed, your implanted tooth will look and function just like your natural teeth. And as long as you maintain good oral hygiene, the implant should last you a lifetime.
If you’re missing teeth and want to fill in the gaps, dental implants may be your best option. To learn more, book an appointment online or over the phone with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.