BY CHRISTI BLEVINS
According to the American College of Prosthodontists, around 178 million American adults are missing at least one tooth, while approximately 40 million Americans have no teeth. It’s no wonder that dental implants are growing in popularity.
The ABCs of Dental Implants (Sort of)
- The Actual implant comes first. This is a metal post that replaces the root of a missing tooth. It is placed in your jawbone to provide a base for the artificial tooth.
- The aButment is next. It is placed above the gum line and connects the implant to the new tooth.
- The Crown is the realistic artificial tooth that the world will see when you flash your smile. The crown is made especially for your mouth.
Why Choose an Implant Instead of a Bridge?
Tooth replacement has been around since 700 BC, but until dental implants arrived on the scene, no option addressed a missing jawbone. The bone grows around the implant (osseointegration), providing support for jaw health. Dental implants can have up to a 95% success rate. Most implant posts are made of titanium, although some are ceramic and are meant to last a lifetime.
The average bridge lasts ten years, though many need to be replaced after only five. Bridges and dentures are designed to replace the look of missing teeth, but either lack a natural appearance or lose it over time. Bridges, unlike implants, may cause an increase in cavities around the surrounding teeth and can also compromise the long-term health of adjacent teeth by removing the enamel and placing additional force on them.
Getting one or more dental implants can help you avoid difficulties with eating or even speaking. Each tooth is important, and a single missing tooth can cause your face to sag, your cheeks to sink, and your mouth to shrink from a loss of jaw support. This is often called facial collapse.
Dental implants also provide the security of having “rooted” teeth. They feel, function, and look like natural teeth, and they require no special care. Brush and floss as you normally would.
Why is Sooner Better Than Later?
The longer you wait to replace a missing tooth, the more bone you will lose, which can prevent your ability to get a dental implant or increase the likelihood that you’ll need a bone graft before the implant can be placed. Even the loss of a single back molar can cause your other teeth to shift, and the area may become difficult to keep clean, which can lead to tooth decay, gum disease, and potentially the loss of more teeth.
How Do I Know If I’m a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Your health history should be evaluated. Some conditions can impact healing following a dental implant procedure. People on medications such as steroids or immunosuppressants may not be good candidates either. However, most people are good candidates, so schedule a consultation to see if you are a fit for the procedure.
Can You Get a New Smile in a Day?
Following your initial consultation, it may be possible to get one or more dental implants in a single day. However, if you have any periodontal disease, it will need to be addressed before getting implants. Additionally, bone grafting may be required if your jawbone isn’t thick enough due to bone loss.
Paying the Tooth Fairy
Check with your dental insurer to see if dental implants are covered. Many dental practices also offer their own membership plans. An annual membership fee may include some basic exams, cleanings, and X-rays, plus a discount on other dental services. If you have a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), you can tap into some tax-free funds. If not, your provider may offer a payment plan.