If you have concerns about your oral health, you might be wondering if you need dental implants. Missing or damaged teeth are more than a cosmetic issue — tooth loss can affect your overall health and quickly become a nuisance, making it harder to enjoy the foods you love. It can also negatively impact your self-esteem and cause you to feel embarrassed around others. But to fix the problem, how do you know whether you need dental implants, crowns, bridges or something else entirely?
To help you make an informed decision, board-certified oral and maxillofacial surgeon Dr. John P. Freeman explains the difference between these treatment options and why your doctor might recommend dental implants instead. Keep reading to discover the top five reasons people get dental implants and how they can help you achieve a healthier, more beautiful smile.
Not all dental appliances are created equally. While all of the available treatment options address the immediate concern of cracked or missing teeth, most are still susceptible to decay and don’t preserve the health of the jawbone. This includes bridges and crowns, which are dental prosthetics that cover existing teeth or replace lost ones. With the proper care, these devices can last for a decade or more, but will eventually need to be repaired or replaced. Dentures also fall into this category, since the fit can change over time.
In contrast, dental implants are a permanent solution for filling in gaps in the mouth. Instead of being placed over an existing tooth like bridges or crowns, dental implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone to provide a stable foundation for your new teeth. This offers several advantages, including the prevention of bone loss, which occurs when an adult tooth is extracted but not replaced. Without the pressure from biting or chewing, portions of the affected jawbone don’t receive the necessary stimulation and begin to recede.
Dentists often recommend dental implants because they are designed to look, feel and function like your natural teeth. And unlike bridges, they’ll keep the jawbone healthy. In fact, they are the next best thing to real teeth, especially if you have the following concerns.
Dental implants are used to replace one or more missing teeth. They are composed of titanium screws that are surgically inserted into the mouth and allowed to fuse with your existing jawbone. Once it heals, a post or abutment is placed on top, which will hold a custom-made artificial tooth. It is a permanent solution that will improve both your oral function and appearance. Dental implants can fill in existing gaps, but your dentist might also recommend using them for teeth that are damaged beyond repair due to infection, decay or injury. If you’re missing all of your teeth or need to have them pulled, implant-supported bridges deliver the same benefits while replacing several teeth at once.
If you’ve had missing teeth for a while and haven’t had them replaced, or you have bridges or dentures instead, the jawbone may have started to deteriorate. That’s because when you lose a tooth, the pressure that is normally exerted on the jawbone while chewing, biting and talking is no longer there. Without this stimulation, the body thinks the affected bone isn’t needed and begins to reabsorb it. A shrinking jawbone can have consequences that include trouble speaking clearly, premature aging, shifting teeth and sinus problems. It can also cause long-term dentures to fit improperly as the facial structure changes. If significant bone loss has occurred, you may have to undergo bone grafting prior to receiving dental implants to ensure that they will be adequately supported once placed in the mouth.
Many people struggle with the problem of loose or ill-fitting dentures. One of the most common reasons for loose dentures is the loss of jawbone, which happens so gradually that you might not even notice it until your dentures begin to slip more often or you hear a clicking noise when you talk. Eventually, the shape of your mouth changes, so your original dentures are no longer the proper size. While new adhesive or denture relining can help for a while, bone loss will continue to happen beneath the surface of your gums. Dental implants solve the problem permanently by providing the jawbone with the stimulation it needs to stay healthy.
Another drawback of choosing dentures is that the face can start to look older due to progressively worsening bone loss. As the jawbone recedes, it affects more than just your teeth and gums — it can change the overall structure of your face. Tell-tale signs include a more pointed chin, sunken or flabby cheeks, and distinctive wrinkles around the mouth. Fortunately, deterioration of the jawbone can be reversed and maintained with bone grafting and dental implant procedures. Bone grafting restores some of the bone that has been lost, while dental implants improve and maintain the strength of the jawbone.
All this talk about bone loss might make you worried if you have temporary bridges, crowns or dentures. While these treatment options can be viable for the right patient, they can’t prevent or reverse bone loss. Instead of being inserted into the jawbone, these devices are supported by your surrounding teeth or gums and secured with specialized adhesives. Depending on your needs and goals, your dentist may recommend replacing your bridges, crowns or dentures with dental implants, which provide more stability and help improve your oral health. Crowns and bridges can also loosen over time and are susceptible to tooth decay or damage, but dental implants do not have this issue as they are designed to function just like your natural teeth.
Dental implants can help you regain your beautiful smile while improving your overall health and wellness. Dr. John P. Freeman is an experienced oral and maxillofacial surgeon that can help you decide if dental implants are right for you. To learn more about your treatment options or schedule a consultation, call his office in Katy, Texas, today at 281-599-9445.