Whenever you lose a tooth, your oral health takes a big hit. Missing teeth can alter your bite, cause extra wear and tear on your other teeth, and lead to bone loss in your jaw. The gaps can also make you self-conscious about your smile.

If you’re missing one or a few teeth, you have a number of options to replace them, including bridges and partial dentures. However, if you want the gold standard, the answer is clear: dental implants. What makes them special is the fact that they do everything your natural teeth do.

At Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. in Orinda, California, Dr. Ellis and her staff offer dental implants to their patients to restore their smiles and protect and improve their oral health. Here’s everything you need to know about dental implants.

Missing teeth and your health

Your oral health is at its peak when all of the different parts work together efficiently. If you lose a tooth, part of the system gets broken, and your oral health suffers. And research shows that you risk developing additional problems — both dental and overall — with each additional tooth you lose. Missing teeth can cause or contribute to a number of problems, such as the following:

Bite problems

With teeth missing, the remaining teeth can shift into the gaps, which may interfere with chewing and speaking.

Diet issues

If you have missing teeth, this can change what you eat and how you eat. For example, if you don’t have front teeth for biting or molars for grinding tough foods, you may forgo eating certain things.

Digestion troubles

If you’re not able to chew your food properly because you have missing teeth, this, in turn, could lead to problems with your digestion.

Jawbone loss

Your jawbone requires bite pressure to create new tissue. If a tooth is missing, this lack of stimulation will signal to your body to not create new bone tissue in that area. And this could cause your jawbone to lose mass in that area and cause nearby teeth to loosen and fall out.

The benefits of dental implants

Bridges and partial dentures have been the go-to for a long time to replace one or a few teeth.

However, they fail in a major way, because they only replace the crowns, which are the visible portions of teeth.

A dental implant, on the other hand, replaces all the parts of a tooth’s structure, including the tooth’s root. This is important, because the root is implanted into your jaw, which will hold the implant in place. A dental implant won’t slip, as could happen with a denture.

Furthermore, as noted before, the root will provide the stimulation your jaw needs to keep rebuilding bone tissue.

Placing dental implants

Dr. Ellis places dental implants in an in-office procedure. It’s a long-term commitment, as the whole process takes about 6-9 months, but most of that is healing time.

Implant the new root

The initial step takes about 1-2 hours, depending on how many implants you need. First, Dr. Ellis gives you a local anesthetic. Then she makes one or more incisions in your gums to get access to your jawbone.

Next, she drills tiny holes in your jawbone, into which she inserts a titanium post, which serves as your new tooth’s root. Then she places a temporary crown and sutures your gums closed.

Take time for healing

The next phase is called osseointegration. This period takes 3-6 months, and during this time, the bone tissue slowly grows around the implant and fuses to it, anchoring it into your jawbone.

Place the permanent crown

Once the area heals, you come back to the office and Dr. Ellis finishes your treatment. First, she screws an abutment (connector) to the top of the titanium post. Then she attaches a permanent crown to the abutment.

Once the process is complete, your new tooth should look and behave the same as any natural tooth. And, as long as you keep up with your oral hygiene routine, the implant should last you a lifetime.

Do you have missing teeth? To see if implants could help you, call (925) 272-2698, or book an appointment online with Virginia H. Ellis, DDS Dental Corp. today.