SERVING MESA, PHOENIX, Gilbert, TEMPE AND SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA
It’s not uncommon to lose our teeth as we get older. Much of this kind of tooth loss can be prevented through general dental care and diligent dental hygiene, but as we live longer, teeth can simply wear down. Dentures have done the job for a long time, but they can be uncomfortable, difficult to maintain, and can contribute to long-term bone loss in the jaw. Dental implants offer a permanent solution to replacing missing teeth. Today, we have more options to choose from than ever.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are titanium anchors that we implant into the jawbone that hold replacement teeth in place. The root of the implant sits in the jawbone right beneath the gum line allowing the visible tooth, or crown, to attach to the root. Implants have been designed to look and feel much like natural teeth.
Implant dentistry can replace single teeth, multiple teeth, or even all of your teeth. Using dental implants results in permanent replacements, as well as an artificial root. This continues to stimulate your jawbone, reducing the risk of bone loss over time. They can support artificial teeth, bridges, and dentures.
Dental Implant Benefits
Dental implants act as a replacement for a missing tooth’s root. This allows dental implants to prevent structural changes to the jaw that are unavoidable with other types of tooth replacement. To learn more about the benefits, you can speak with implant dentists Dr. LeSueur or Dr. Dodaro to analyze your dental situation. The dental implant benefits include:
- Restore complete strength and function to the smile
- Look and function close to natural teeth
- Will not come loose or fall out
- Are easy to care for
- Do not need to be replaced over time
- Support jawbone and gum health
How Dental Implants Improve Health
Dental implants are currently the only method of restoring nearly 100 percent of the stability one would have with natural teeth. Whether used with crowns, a bridge, or dentures, implants provide the foundation a person needs to eat a well-balanced diet that is supportive of general health. Stable teeth are also integral to clear speech. Finally, the presence of a root, natural or artificial, is vital to the regeneration of bone tissue in the jaw. The insertion of dental implants, therefore, preserves facial structure as it relates to the projection of the lips and cheeks.
How do I know if I need dental implants?
Most people who have lost a tooth can be a good candidate for dental implants. This treatment option is a common choice for patients who have lost any number of teeth. An implant can be used with a dental crown to replace a single tooth. Implants can also be inserted in a manner that stabilizes a bridge of several teeth or a full-arch denture.
Am I a Good Candidate for dental implants?
While many people benefit from them, not every individual is a good candidate for dental implants. You must have sufficient healthy gum and jaw bone tissue to be able to support dental implants and you must be in good overall health. If you do not have enough sufficiently healthy jaw bone tissue at this time, a bone graft may improve your oral health to a point that you would have a good likelihood of a successful implant procedure.
In many of these cases, conditions can be treated, periodontal health can be restored, and a bone graft can be used to prepare the jaw for a dental implant. Be sure to talk to us about all medications you are taking prior to your dental implant procedure. We will highlight medications of concern and then you can talk to your doctor about treatment alternatives. You cannot have a dental implant if:
- Insufficient jawbone to support implant
- Untreated periodontal issues that led to loss of prior tooth
- Taking medications that may increase your risk of complications
- Poor general health
- Previous radiation to the Jaw area
- Biophosphate use
Fixed Partial Dentures and Implants
If you are missing more than one consecutive tooth, you may be offered a bridge attached to implants. This is a fixed partial denture. The technology is almost exactly the same as for individual dental implants, with the exception that, instead of one false tooth affixed to a single implant, you will have two or more false teeth connected together and attached to two or more implant posts.
This type of dental restoration is called “fixed” because the bridge, or partial denture, cannot be removed. In fact, most dental implants have the same functionality and feel of your natural teeth. You can use them to chew and they do not interfere with your speech. Additionally, dental implants do not have to be removed to be cleaned, but can be brushed and flossed around just like your natural teeth.
What are the steps for getting dental implants?
Dental implant treatment is a multi-step process that may begin with pre-treatment such as bone grafting or sinus lift surgery. Either of these procedures would be performed months before the implant process begins.
The first step in restoring the smile is to insert the appropriate number of implants. This minor surgical procedure is performed with local anesthesia which numbs the mouth. A tiny incision is made in the gums to create access to the jawbone. A dental drill is then used to make a small opening in the bone. The small implant post is inserted into that opening. Gum tissue is then stitched over the implant to protect it while it heals. Osseointegration is a process that takes 4 to 6 months.
After bone has fully encased the new implant or implants, a second procedure is conducted to attach the abutment to the installed post. This short treatment is performed with local anesthesia to numb the mouth. Incisions are made in the gums to expose each implant. An abutment, or small connector piece, is affixed to the exposed end of the implant post. Gum tissue is stitched around, not over, the abutment. Tissue healing takes a few weeks.
The final stage of implant treatment is the installation of the necessary restoration onto the implant abutment. After artificial teeth are secured to the implant, chewing and speaking quickly return to normal.
Once these appliances are placed, you have permanent replacements for your lost teeth that won’t shift or slide, won’t cause discomfort, and which may not need to be removed for cleaning. In addition, because the implant is placed directly in the jawbone, it continues to stimulate bone growth as you chew, preventing bone loss that’s common in long-term denture wearers.
If you’ve already experienced bone loss in your jaw, you might require bone grafts in order to be able to support dental implants. If the bone loss is fairly minor, the implants can be spaced such that they can support your bridge or dentures in spite of the deficient bone.
What material is used to create a dental implant?
Dental implants are made out of surgical-grade titanium. This biocompatible metal has been used extensively in medical implant surgeries for decades. Titanium is corrosion resistant, durable, and biocompatible to the bone tissue in which it becomes encased.
What is Bone Grafting?
Bone grafting is a pre-treatment procedure in which granules of bone tissue are inserted into the empty tooth socket. In more severe cases of bone loss, the dentist may choose to insert a small, solid piece of bone tissue to restore stability to the socket. Bone tissue may come from the patient or other sources such as cadaver or animal bone or synthetic material. The selection of material is made based on the extent of bone loss and the dentist’s estimation of a successful outcome with a particular type of tissue.
What is a Sinus Lift?
Sinus lift surgery may be necessary before dental implants can be inserted into the upper jawbone. This procedure is performed to increase the space between the sinus cavity and the upper part of the mouth. To lift the sinus, an incision is made in the gum tissue of the upper arch. This incision creates a tiny window through which the sinus membrane can be lifted away from the sinus walls. While holding the sinus in a higher position, the dentist inserts bone tissue between the sinus floor and its membrane. A collagen membrane is then applied over the inserted bone to protect it. The sinus is set upon the new foundation of bone and the incision is closed with stitches. Over the course of approximately 4 months, new bony tissue grows, creating a safe position for dental implants to be inserted.
What is Ridge Augmentation?
Tooth loss affects the gums and bone tissue of the jaw. In some instances, the bone loss that results from a missing tooth causes an indentation where the tooth once was. This can present a challenge when the time comes to replace the missing tooth. When the ridge of an arch is indented, the replacement tooth will appear unnaturally long compared to surrounding teeth. Additionally, the odd position of the replacement tooth may pose a challenge to oral hygiene.
Ridge augmentation is a type of bone grafting through which the natural contour of the gums and jaw are reinstated. By increasing the height of the jaw and gum tissue, this procedure increases the success of implant stability. This type of reconstruction involves bone and soft-tissue grafting techniques that fill in an indentation, resulting in a smooth gum line.
Mini dental implants
We also offer mini dental implants to provide you with a much less invasive, more affordable option to replace missing teeth. These are smaller versions of traditional titanium dental implants that are inserted into your jaw and function as a replacement tooth root. The head of the implant has the shape of a ball and attaches to a set of dentures to make them lock into place. Mini dental implants can significantly improve chewing and eating, as well as individual confidence.
How do dental implants compare to dentures?
The model of dental implants versus dentures is very different. Dentures are artificial teeth and gums that sit on the soft tissue of each arch. There is no stabilization for a traditional denture other than the natural suction between the structure and the gums. Dental implants are not replacement teeth; they are replacement roots. As such, dental implants are complementary to full dentures. The implants act as a secure foundation within the jawbone, while the denture provides structure and appearance.
How soon after receiving dental implants can I chew hard food?
The integration of each implant into the jawbone is key to the long-term stability of artificial teeth. When we insert implants, bone cells gradually attach to the titanium post in the same way bone once attached to natural tooth roots. Over time, bone fuses to the implant. This process of integration can take from 3 months to a year, depending on a person’s general and oral health. Pressure on the implant and bone during the integration phase can disrupt the formation of bone around the post. Therefore, it is beneficial for an implant patient to avoid consuming foods that require much pressure for chewing. A good rule of thumb here is that if a food makes noise when you chew it, avoid it until your dentist has confirmed the successful integration of your implants. Once posts are secured, it is possible to eat whatever you’d like.
How long do dental implants last?
Dental implants can last many decades when oral health is attended to. It is necessary to maintain proper brushing and flossing habits if you have natural teeth in combination with implants. If you have implant-supported dentures, it is necessary that you maintain your dentures as directed by your dentist, including periodic exams and cleanings.
Schedule a Consultation
Dental implants alone replace a missing tooth’s root, a benefit that gives them a clear advantage over alternative options. To learn more about the options available to replace missing teeth, call 480.834.6991 to schedule a consultation at Drs of Smiles in Mesa, AZ.