Dental implants are some of the most exciting advancements in contemporary dentistry. Over the last few decades, they’ve become one of the most common cosmetic dental procedures used to replace a lost or missing tooth. There are good reasons for this–dental implants offer significant advantages over traditional dentures or bridges, and they’ve become more affordable and accessible both privately and via insurance. So what are dental implants exactly and who is a good candidate for dental implants? Let’s take a look and learn a bit more.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are just what they sound like: prosthetic teeth implanted into the jaw and gum to replace missing, lost, or damaged teeth. When properly installed, they look, feel, and function just like natural teeth. This is a big step up from dentures or bridges, and most patients prefer dental implants to those more traditional options.
Installing a dental implant generally occurs over several visits to the dentist’s office. During the first visit, the base of the implant is installed. This base is a titanium screw that is implanted directly into the jawbone. When that’s had some time to heal in place, the prosthetic tooth itself is installed. This may occur several weeks later, depending on how quickly the jaw and gum heal around the base. As we said early, once the implant is installed fully, the patient may resume a normal life. Dental implants require no more care than natural teeth do: regular brushing and flossing along with regular trips to the dentist for exams and cleanings.
Who is a Good Candidate for a Dental Implant?
While dental implants have a number of advantages, they may not be the right choice for everyone who needs a tooth replaced. There are some health issues that may limit someone’s ability to get a dental implant:
- General health is a consideration in choosing a dental implant. The procedure for installing an implant involves anesthesia, and as such, the patient needs to be healthy enough to endure that. Your dentist may ask you several questions about your health and the medications you take while considering a dental implant, and may request a full physical from your primary care physician.
- Healthy gums are a requirement for a dental implant to work properly, so your dentist will likely examine your gums for any sign of gum diseases such as gingivitis. Installing a dental implant into an infected gum can spread that infection to the jawbone, which can be very serious indeed. Your dentist will likely want to treat any gum disease present before proceeding with an implant.
- Bone density, particularly of the jaw bone, is another vital consideration in choosing a dental implant. If the jaw bone isn’t strong enough to accept the implant, then another prosthetic like dentures or a bridge may be a better choice. There are some options to improve or correct bone density issues, and if they’re a good option for you your dentist will guide you through them.
- Smoking and other forms of tobacco use complicate every phase of installing and maintaining a dental implant. Your dentist may suggest or even require you to be tobacco-free before attempting to install an implant.
- Finally, overall oral health and good oral health care habits can also determine if an implant is right for you. By taking good care of your teeth, you’re helping to ensure that an implant can succeed.
Even if an implant isn’t the right choice for you, don’t despair. Traditional choices like dentures and bridges have plenty of advantages of their own when compared to implants, and they may be the right choice for some people. If you’re interested in a dental implant or another form of dental prosthetic, reach out today. We’ll make an appointment so our friendly staff can conduct an exam and help you find the right choice for you.