Fixing Your Toothless Grin: How to Know if You’re a Good Candidate for Dental Implants

There’s nothing like a big, genuine smile to make a great first impression. A happy grin that shows straight, white teeth sends an easy-to-read signal of health and good hygiene. If you don’t smile as much as you used to due to one or more missing teeth, dental implants are something you may wish to consider. Permanently installed replacement teeth are a wonderful cosmetic option for just about everyone.

What are dental implants?

Dental implants offer a fabulous alternative to dentures or ill-fitting bridgework. Once installed, dental implants can restore up to 85% of biting strength, says Mayo Clinic. Dental implant surgery involves replacing the roots of natural teeth with metal posts to which artificial teeth are fastened. Most often made of titanium, posts are surgically inserted through the gum into the jawbone and eventually “grow into” the bone and become a permanent part of the jaw. Dental implants may be used to replace upper or lower teeth. The process of implanting posts to replace front teeth is somewhat more involved than implanting back teeth.

Types of dental implants

Dental implants can be utilized to replace one or more missing teeth. A single tooth implant may involve a temporary “abutment” that is attached to the implant post the same day it’s installed. Alternately, a healing period may be required before permanently attaching a custom made crown or replacement tooth.

Multiple missing teeth may be replaced with a snap-on bridge. As with single missing teeth, a dental bridge implant attaches to a titanium post that is inserted into the upper or lower jawbone.

A patient who is missing all of their upper or lower teeth may be a good candidate for a full denture implant. Not only will the procedure drastically improve their biting and chewing capacity, the implant posts will also aid in preventing additional jawbone loss.

Who is a good candidate for dental implants?

Practically anyone who is missing one or more teeth can be a good candidate for dental implantation. Persons who have adequate jawbone and healthy gums are the best candidates for dental implants. Patients with severe loss of bone in the jaw, as happens when teeth are missing, may undergo a bone grafting procedure to build up the jaw, explains Colgate.

Bone grafts may be performed at the time of tooth extraction or at a later time. Because stimulation is imperative to healthy bone, it is best not to go very long with a missing tooth. Without a natural root to stimulate the jawbone, a process called resorption often occurs. Bone grafting may be used in conjunction with techniques designed to regenerate bone. Truth be told, jawbone health is a major reason why people are advised to undergo dental implant surgery. Once implanted titanium posts fuse with the jawbone, they provide healthy stabilization while minimizing further bone loss.

Heavy smokers and patients with uncontrolled diabetes are not necessarily precluded from having dental implants, but their chances of a successful implantation are somewhat less than for non-smokers and persons who do not have diabetes. Persons who grind their teeth or clench their jaw in their sleep may have less success with implantation. Patients with hemophilia should probably not consider surgical dental implantation.

An experienced dentist at Gordon Center for General and Advanced Dentistry or your own personal dentist can evaluate you for dental implants and explain why or why not the procedure is right for you.

Taking care of your dental implants

Prosthetic dental implants are very well designed and don’t require a lot of maintenance. Daily brushing and flossing, as you’d do with natural teeth, are crucial to continued good health. Bridge work does not require flossing, but should be kept as clean as possible at all times. A WaterPik or other oral irrigation device is recommended to keep the gum line pristine and healthy. Bacterial bio-film buildup may be prevented with good oral hygiene habits.

Make and keep regular appointments with your dentist and dental hygienist. Your dentist will want to monitor the stability of your osseointegration and integrity of your jawbone, as well. If your artificial tooth ever needs to be removed and replaced, see a dental professional.

Don’t go through life too embarrassed to smile. Dental implants can improve your appearance, your mood, and your good health, too.

Thomas O’Neill works at a busy dental practice as a dental assistant. Having been in the job for several years he enjoys sharing his knowledge to help calm any fears, or questions, people may have about work that they need doing.