Dental implants may not be the most pleasant or interesting of topics, but if you have lost a tooth you probably want all the information you can get about your options for replacement.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are made up of a titanium implant that is inserted into the socket and fuses with the jawbone; the crown, which is the replacement for the tooth; and the abutment, which connects the two. Once the implant fuses with the jawbone, it will feel much like a regular tooth.
If you have lost a tooth because of an injury, gum disease, or tooth decay, there are many reasons to get an implant instead of just living with an empty socket. They also have advantages over bridges and dentures:
- Dental implants look more like real teeth, which eliminates the self-consciousness that some people feel when they wear dentures.
- Because they fuse with bone, this means they are more comfortable than dentures, and, unlike dentures, don’t slip around when you talk or eat. You also don’t have to worry about removing dentures and cleaning them, and figuring out how to keep them in place.
- With proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime, unlike dentures that may need to be replaced
- Oftentimes, surrounding teeth have to be modified to support bridges. With implants, your other teeth don’t have to be altered.
- Dental implants have a very high success rate, of almost 98%.
- Leaving the tooth socket empty can affect not only your smile and how the other teeth fit into your mouth, but it can mean bone loss in your jaw.
How do I know if I can get a dental implant?
If you have a healthy jawbone and healthy gums, you can probably get dental implants. You should also be serious about your dental health and oral hygiene, and be committed to regular dental visits. Most people are good candidates for dental implants.
There are three types of implants, distinguished by how they attach to the jaw and their shape. Your dentist will decide which kind of implant to use, and this will depend on where the implant will be placed, the design of the tooth that the implant will support, and how much bone is available to fuse with the implant.
What are the different types of implants?
Endosseous (or endosteal) implants, which are the most commonly used, are placed within the jawbone. They are made of ceramic, metal, or metal covered with ceramic. They are shaped like blades, screws, or cylinders. The vast majority of implants placed are this type.
Subperiosteal implants are placed on the jawbone underneath the gum tissue, with posts that go through the gum. These implants are used in patients with minimal bone height, meaning there is not a lot of jawbone for the implant to fuse with.
Transosteal implants are the most invasive implant option, and also the most expensive one. This is probably why it is also the option that is the least seldom used. To install this implant, your dentist must drill through your lower jaw, bolt a plate to the bottom of the jaw, and then attach the rest of the implant through screws that come up from the plate through the gums. The patient’s skin below the chin has to be opened, which may also lead to (on top of everything else you’ve been through) an ugly scar.
Will a dental implant hurt?
According to some patients, hearing the details about a dental implant is actually worse than getting it done. It has been described as being “mildly uncomfortable.” Patients usually report that having the implant placed is less traumatic than having the tooth pulled. Your dentist should be able to provide you with pain medication if you are concerned.
If you are missing a tooth, a dental implant is definitely something you should look into. Talk to your dentist so you can get all the facts about which dental implant is right for you.