According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, more than three million Americans have dental implants, and the number continually grows by approximately 500 thousand each year. Dental implants are small titanium posts that are placed into the jawbone to serve as the root of a replacement tooth. The titanium posts are later topped with the replacement tooth or teeth usually in the form of a crown, bridge, or denture.
Individuals with missing or severely damaged teeth can achieve a more attractive smile and restore their oral health and function to an ideal level through dental implants.
Many dentists recommend dental implants to patients who have a missing tooth. Whether the missing tooth is the result of natural aging, a blow to the face or another cause, implants work well as a long-term replacement solution. For single tooth replacement, a dental crown will also be attached to the implant. The dental crown will provide the appearance of a natural tooth.
Implants are also an option for multiple missing teeth, as well. For a section of two or more missing teeth, the dentist may recommend dental implants with a bridge attachment. For full arch replacement, it might be best to attach a full denture to surgically-placed implants in the jaw.
Most dentists will try and save the natural tooth after damage occurs through dental crowns or another type of restoration. However, there are times when damaged or loose teeth are better off being removed and replaced with dental implants. This is the case in situations where an infected tooth threatens the patient's oral and overall health.
Crooked teeth are not typically a problem, and most patients who have or had crooked teeth are still good candidates. While teeth and jaw alignment is important when determining if a patient is a candidate, most dentists can provide dental implants to patients with less than ideal teeth alignment. The first step will be to complete specific procedures to help prepare the mouth before the dental implant procedure.
A significant loss of bone density may make dental implants a less desirable solution for patients who prefer not to go through bone grafting. Those who prefer a replacement solution that does not involve a surgical procedure may not make for an ideal candidate either.
Most dentists use the first visit with a patient to determine the most effective course of treatment. To determine if dental implants are an option, the dentist will conduct a thorough oral examination, order dental X-rays, and discuss treatment goals.
Dental implants offer various benefits that other teeth replacement solutions cannot, including the ability to prevent bone loss and last for much more extended periods than other options. Dental implants provide the natural appearance and function of teeth.
Caring for dental implants is similar to caring for natural teeth. Patients should brush with low abrasive tartar-control toothpaste and floss twice daily. Dentists recommend a soft-bristled toothbrush and an interdental brush for hard-to-reach places such as under an implant crown.