If you have lost one or more teeth, you will probably be happy to learn that you can get them back. Not quite, but dental implants are teeth replacement options so much like your natural teeth that you will likely forget you have them, and if you don’t tell anyone, they will never know. Dental implants look like your natural teeth, function like your natural teeth, require no special care, and have the ability to last a lifetime, making them, hands down, the best tooth replacement option available.
If you would like to learn whether dental implants can be used to replace your teeth, please call (303) 759-5652 or email Park Meadows Dental Care for a consultation with a Centennial cosmetic dentist.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants are the best way to replace your natural teeth. They have many advantages over other tooth replacement options, including:
- Look like natural teeth
- Function like natural teeth
- Allow you to eat all your favorite foods
- Require no special maintenance
- Stimulate your jawbone to keep it strong
- Can last a lifetime
Because of these advantages, it’s no wonder that dental implants continue to grow in popularity, with more and more people choosing them over other teeth replacement options.
How Dental Implants Work
Dental implants function like your natural teeth because they are structured like your natural teeth. They are made up of a root and a crown, which, like your natural teeth, are made of different material. The root is made of titanium, a metal which is not only safe to put in the body, but is capable of being integrated into your bone. This is what allows the dental implant to function just like a natural tooth because it’s secured in your bone similar to the way your natural teeth are.
The dental crown is made of an aesthetic porcelain, which is both strong and attractive, similar in appearance and performance to your natural tooth enamel.
Who Is a Candidate for Dental Implants
Most adults are candidates for dental implants. The best way to learn whether you are a candidate is to schedule a consultation with a Centennial implant dentist. Please call (303) 759-5652 for an evaluation by Dr. Kary Berry at Park Meadows Dental Care.
The ideal candidate for dental implants:
- Has lost one or more teeth
- Has good oral health
- Has good general health
- Has adequate bone where the implant will be placed
- Is a non-smoker
However, even if you aren’t an ideal candidate for dental implants, you may still be able to them.
The primary oral health concern when it comes to dental implants is gum disease. Infections around the dental implant—called peri-implantitis–are the primary cause of dental implant failure, just like periodontitis is the primary reason for tooth loss. If you have gum disease at the site where you want to get a dental implant, your gum disease will have to be treated first.
General health concerns are similar to those for other surgeries. If you have a compromised immune system or are currently taking anticoagulants, for example, you may not be a good candidate for dental implant surgery. You also need to talk to your implant dentist about allergies to pain medications. If you have diabetes, you can likely get dental implants, but you will need to take extra care with your oral hygiene. If you have oral cancer, are undergoing radiation therapy, or have recently undergone radiation therapy, you may not be a candidate for dental implants.
If you do not currently have enough bone at the implant site, we might recommend a bone graft. In this procedure, bone or bone-like material is used to build up the bone at the implant site. Sometimes this can be done when the implant is placed, but it may have to be done first, and can take up to six months for the graft to heal fully.
Smokers can get dental implants, but their risk of implant failure is much higher than nonsmokers’. Smoking essentially doubles your risk of dental implant failure.
Children are not considered good candidates for dental implants because their jaws are still growing. However, you are never too old for dental implants. Studies show that elderly patients (those over 80 years of age) have good survival rates for dental implants, from 94% to nearly 100% after 5 years depending on the patient and the location of the implants. Anecdotal reports of successful dental implants in patients as old as 95 are reported by dentists.
The Dental Implant Process
The dental implant process begins with a thorough examination of your oral health, including the health of any teeth you are considering removing. We will consider the health of that tooth and whether an option like a root canal might be a better option for preserving the health, beauty, and function of your smile.
Your examination will include imaging of the implant site that may include digital x-rays, MRI, and/or CT scans. The goal is to determine whether you have adequate bone volume and density, and detect other possible areas of concern. We will also take a detailed health history and may refer you to your primary care physician for general health concerns.
If you have gum disease, we will start by treating it. We may do this at the same time that we remove teeth compromised by gum disease.
Once your gum disease is resolved or if you don’t have gum disease, we might need to do a bone graft. Often, a bone graft can be placed at the same time as the dental implant. Other times the bone graft may need to be done first. In most cases, the bone graft takes between three and six months to heal.
When the dental implant is placed, we will evaluate its stability. If the dental implant is stable enough to support a dental crown right away, we can place a provisional crown immediately, possibly giving you your new tooth the same day your old tooth was removed. If your implant isn’t fully stable, we might place a healing abutment, a small metal cap that holds the place in your gums for your dental implant. Sometimes we may be too concerned about the health of the dental implant, and we will cover it over with gum tissue to let it heal.
Next, we monitor the process of osseointegration. This is when the body grows bone around the dental implant. When the implant is fully integrated, we will place a permanent crown. For implants that were concealed under the gums to heal, there will be an additional step with a healing abutment to condition the gums around the implant.
Dental Implant Maintenance
Dental implants are really easy to maintain. They can be treated just like your natural teeth, with a few minor variations. For your daily care, brush and floss your natural teeth normally, but use a little extra care around the dental implant. Although bone readily accepts the dental implant, gum tissue does not bond as well to it as to natural teeth. Aggressive brushing and flossing around the dental implant can lead to gum recession.
You will still want to make regular dentist appointments, even if all your teeth have been replaced with dental implants. You will need to be evaluated for peri-implantitis, and gum disease around your natural teeth will need to be controlled as well. We may recommend that you make more regular visits, perhaps three or four a year instead of the normal two. If you are visiting a different general dentist than your implant dentist, make sure your hygienist knows about your dental implant and treats it appropriately.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
We say dental implants can last a lifetime, and that certainly seems to be true. Anecdotally, we can look at the first dental implant patient, whose dental implants lasted until his death 40 years later. More scientifically, we can look at long-term studies like this 20-year study of more than 12,500 dental implants. The data showed a survival rate of more than 93% at 17 years, the longest for which data projections could be reliably made, though only 2.5% of implants had actually failed over the period of the study.
About 60% of dental implant failures occur in the first year. Most of these failures are due to peri-implantitis or failure to osseointegrate. After the first year, a small number of dental implant failures occur every year, but there’s no indication that the failure rate was increasing, indicating that the absolute life of the implant had been reached. Instead, the data shows that the dental implants wouldn’t continue to function indefinitely. Recently, concerns have been raised about the risk of dental implant fracture, but this data shows that fracture is not a significant factor, occurring in less than 0.2% of dental implants.
For additional information about dental implants, please see questions about dental implants.
To talk to Centennial cosmetic dentist Dr. Kary Berry about dental implants, please call (303) 759-5652 or contact Park Meadows Dental Care online today to schedule your appointment.