Teeth may be made of the hardest substance in your body, but even that will not guarantee that they will stay put.
For many, missing teeth are both unhealthy and unsightly. However, losing a tooth is not the end of the world. There is still hope.
That hope comes in the form of dental implants. Dental implants are metal screws that are embedded under the gum tissue and into the jawline to serve as an anchor for a synthetic tooth (or teeth). Dental implants are safe, reliable, and can potentially last a lifetime.
Dr. Phillip Sheridan, Associate Professor of Dentistry at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, explains that a dental implant simply replaces the root of a natural tooth and functions in the exact same capacity.
“If you were to lose a tooth, whether it was extracted by the dentist or you knocked it out and you had a space in your mouth, the dentist could place the dental implant to replace the root nature gave you,” Sheridan said.
“Predictability of dental implants has dramatically improved with the use of a C-scan to determine the quality and density of the bone in which the implant is to be placed. In fact, patients with dentures can have multiple implants placed and have permanent teeth fixed to implants with these studies finding the best area of bone in the jaw for the implants to be placed,” states Dr Christine Koval in Sarasota, Florida.
Different metals can be used for implants, but the most popular one is titanium, which is also used for hip and knee replacements. Furthermore, multiple dental implants are possible, rather than just one, and can function as bridges to anchor several replacement teeth in place.
Nearly everyone, regardless of age, gender, and size, is eligible for dental implants. There are, however, exceptions. Patients with insufficient jawbone lines may not have enough support to successfully embed an implant. Particularly susceptible to this are chemotherapy patients, since chemotherapy and radiation treatments cause changes in bone structure, which can potentially prevent fusion of the implant from happening.
If the dentist decides you’re eligible for implants, the procedure itself is relatively straightforward. Using local anaesthetic or IV sedation, the dentist can insert the implant into the jaw relatively quickly. After the surgery is complete, it usually takes about three to four months before the synthetic tooth or denture can be attached to the implant. Once it’s attached, the tooth remains there indefinitely.