Jun 9, 2016

What You Need to Know About Dental Implants

Tooth loss has become so common that almost everyone will lose at least one adult tooth in their lifetime. Some removable devices can partially restore the function of a patient’s teeth, but bridges and dentures are not right for everyone. Dental implants give patients the ability to once again smile and eat with confidence. If you or a loved one has lost a permanent tooth, then you might want to consider long-term treatment options such as dental implants.

Common Risk Factors for Tooth Loss

Quite a few situations can result in the loss of one or more permanent teeth. When you are younger, the biggest risk to your oral health is acute trauma to the face. Teeth are often lost during sporting events, collisions, and other accidents. As you grow older, however, almost every facet of your health will impact your teeth. Male patients who are over the age of 35 have the highest rates of missing teeth. Those who use tobacco products also have a very good chance of losing one or more teeth at some point in their life. Some of the other risk factors include high blood pressure, diabetes, and arthritis.

Preventing Tooth Loss

Even though dental implants are very effective, patients must do everything in their power to protect their natural teeth. This begins with sweeping lifestyle changes such as giving up tobacco products, brushing multiple times a day, flossing, and scheduling at least two dental appointments per year. Anyone who plays a sport should wear as much safety gear as possible including helmets and mouthguards. Patients with a family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, or any other chronic health issues must speak with a doctor about preventative care.

Finally, patients of all ages should keep an eye out for any symptoms of gum disease or tooth decay. While healthy teeth are quite resilient, any damage to the pulp of a tooth can result in tooth loss. Some of the most common symptoms of gum disease include general discomfort, inflammation, discolored gums, and chronic bad breath.

The Basics of Dental Implants

For many years, the only way to restore one’s smile after losing a permanent tooth was with a removable device such as a denture. Instead of being connected to your jaw, traditional dentures and bridges are held in place through a combination of suction and pressure from the surrounding teeth. Older bridges and dentures could also be attached with metal wires that were connected to the natural teeth.

While these items partially restore the appearance of a patient’s smile, many find them to be unsightly, uncomfortable, and difficult to care for. Not only do they need to be cleaned multiple times a day, but they can also move around in the patient’s mouth while they are eating or speaking.

Dental implants are actually anchored into the patient’s bone to create a stable platform for the false tooth. The most important component of the implant is the titanium rod that is attached directly to the jaw. Once the rod is in the correct position, a unique process known as osseointegration takes place. The bone physically bonds with the implant just as if it were the roots of a natural tooth. After the tissue and bone have healed, the personalized crown is attached to the rod.

Are Implants Right for Me?

This is a question that only you and your orthodontist can answer. Modern implants are extremely effective, but patients must have strong jaws and healthy gums in order to use these devices. Those who have been diagnosed with gum disease, bone loss, or tooth decay will need to address those issues before undergoing implant surgery. Many oral health problems increase a patient’s risk of implant rejection. Luckily, treatments for these conditions are more effective than ever, and patients can often restore their oral health within just a few weeks. You should also be devoted to protecting your remaining natural teeth with impeccable oral hygiene habits.

The Procedure

Some implants procedures can be carried out in a single day, but most patients will need to schedule two to three appointments over the course of a few months. During your initial consultation, the dental team will carefully inspect your mouth and take impressions of your remaining teeth. Pictures must also be taken of the teeth so that the manufacturer can match their size, shape, and color with the false crown. If the patient is diagnosed with gum disease or tooth decay, those issues will be addressed before the first surgery.

Installing implants is typically an outpatient procedure that is carried out with a local anesthetic. Those who require multiple implants or bone grafts will need a general anesthetic so they can sleep throughout the entire procedure. An oral sedative can also be used to help the patient stay relaxed during their surgery. After the anesthesia has been administered, the team must then clean the gums, make an incision, and anchor the titanium rod into the bone. The final step in this process is to fold the soft tissue back and stitch the incision shut.


To reduce your risk of an implant rejection, you must carefully follow all of the instructions given to you by the surgical team. Following the procedure, patients must refrain from eating any solid foods for at least two or three days. Foods such as soups, pudding, and yogurt are all excellent options immediately following any type of oral surgery. You must also keep your mouth as clean as possible at all times. Most surgeons suggest rinsing one’s mouth out with salt water at least four or five times a day.

Any discomfort you feel can be taken care of with prescription painkillers or over-the-counter painkillers. Patients who cannot manage their discomfort or notice any unusual side effects should immediately contact their dentist.

Caring for Your Dental Implants

After your bone has fused with the implant, you can schedule your last few appointments to have the abutment and crown placed in your mouth. An abutment is a small saddle that sits just above your gums so that the crown can be attached. Dental crowns are made from a wide variety of materials, but most patients prefer porcelain. Porcelain looks and feels just like natural teeth, and it is surprisingly durable when cared for properly. Once your mouth has healed, you must continue to brush, floss, and use mouthwash multiple times a day. Most implants can be cleaned with any over-the-counter toothpaste, but your surgical team might suggest an antibacterial product for the first few weeks.

With the proper aftercare, the implant rod will last for the rest of your life. The crowns themselves generally last for 20 to 25 years, but some patients must have them replaced more often due to cracks, chips, and staining. Patients should also schedule follow-up appointments at least two or three times a year so their dentist can continue to track their oral health. Those who have lost one permanent tooth have a much higher risk of malocclusion, gum disease, tooth decay, and other common oral health issues.

Lisa S. / Shutterstock.com

Lisa S. / Shutterstock.com

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