Dental implants are the most permanent way to replace a lost tooth or multiple teeth, and some 150 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry (AAID), around one million implants were placed in 2019.
In discussing dental implants with patients, Dr. Stephen Hiroshige has realized that many people don’t understand why dental implants are a superior option or know what to expect from the process of having an implant placed. In this post, we describe the procedure so that you can make a more informed decision.
The importance of replacing missing teeth
Sometimes patients wonder why replacing a missing tooth is necessary. Several complications can result from a missing tooth.
For example, your remaining teeth can shift and move. This can make dental hygiene more difficult, which may increase the risk of decay and lead to the loss of more teeth.
You may also have problems chewing or speaking. It may be a gradually worsening issue, so that you aren’t aware it’s happening.
Finally, your natural teeth have roots, and a tooth’s root contains blood vessels and nerves that stimulate your jawbone. Each time you bite down, your body sends blood and nourishment to your jawbone so that it stays healthy and strong. Without that stimulation, you can lose bone, which can cause the shape of your face to change.
Why implants are the best option
Other options for replacing missing teeth, such as bridges and crowns or dentures, don’t provide a replacement for your tooth’s root. That means your jawbone doesn’t get that essential stimulation.
For many people the cost of implants is a factor; however, the upfront cost isn’t the only consideration. Dental implants can last a lifetime when properly cared for, and that simply isn’t the case with other tooth replacement options. When you compare the upfront and likely one-time cost of implants with the cost of replacing dentures over your lifetime, you may be surprised.
The process of getting a dental implant
The first step is an initial consultation. During that appointment, Dr. Hiroshige takes images and recommends a plan for your implant. It’s an ideal time for you to ask questions and weigh your options.
Once you decide to have a dental implant, the second step is placing the implant. A dental implant is a post, usually made of titanium, that is implanted in the bone of your jaw. This is the step most people worry about.
We use anesthetic to keep you comfortable during the procedure, and as with any other dental surgery, you may have some swelling, bruising, and discomfort afterward. However, most people are able to return to work or school the following day with minimal discomfort.
The next stage happens without any effort on your part. It’s called osseointegration, and it occurs as your jawbone heals around your implant. This forms a strong foundation and allows the implant to serve as a prosthetic tooth root.
In some instances, when the implant is placed, Dr. Hiroshige also places a device called an abutment, which is a small connector attached to the implant just at the gumline. The abutment holds the crown, which is your prosthetic tooth.
The last step is placing your custom-made crown or bridge to the abutment. Dr. Hiroshige uses impressions of your remaining teeth to develop a tooth replacement that will look and function like a natural tooth.
The whole process can take several months and depends on how quickly osseointegration occurs, but once all is said and done, you have a tooth replacement that should serve you well for the rest of your life with normal care.
If you’d like to learn more about dental implants and find out if this might be the best option for you, schedule an appointment with Dr. Hiroshige. He’s always happy to discuss your situation and describe your options.