For millions of people, a good looking smile is something they dream about. And, until relatively recently, dreaming was really all they could do, as their options were pretty limited. For some, dentures and bridges were an option, but they only worked for some, and weren’t always an effective alternative.
However, today, there is a new option in the form of dental implants. Thanks to Dr David Cashel of davidcashel.com for his input to this piece.
Dental implants are essentially replacement tooth roots, which provide the underlying foundation for replacement teeth, which can be either permanent or replaceable as well.
In a dental implant procedure, one or more teeth are extracted (or replaced with an artificial tooth), and attached to the jawbone via either a screw or clamp on the tooth. This has the effect of more or less permanently attaching the tooth, unlike dentures, keeping the tooth securely anchored.
Types of Dental Implants
There are two general types of dental implants. Those are:
• Endosteal – Meaning ‘in the bone’, endosteal procedures are the most common type of procedure, and involve attaching the replacement teeth to a screw, which then literally screws into the jawbone, where they stay permanently. There are different attachment mechanisms as well, such as blades or cylinders, which achieve the same effect.
• Subperiosteal – Meaning ‘on the bone’, this type of implant involves attaching the replacement teeth to the exterior of the jawbone, via a metal attachment that anchors to the jawbone. This is used in cases where the patient isn’t a good candidate for endosteal implants, such as when their jawbone is too low.
Advantages to Dental Implants
• Improved Appearance – The most popular reason get dental implants is also the most effective use for them, namely that they have the ability to significantly, if not dramatically, enhance your appears and attractiveness. They look more natural than dentures, and because they fuse to bone, they are permanent, just like regular teeth.
• Improved Self-Esteem – Maybe the best thing about having a great smile again is that it makes you feel better about yourself. Just as your appearance improves on the outside, so your self-image improves on the inside, and that’s a great feeling to have.
• Better Oral Hygiene and Health – Dental implants typically work with your existing teeth, except in cases where the teeth themselves need to be replaced as well. Unlike bridges, dental implants don’t require modification to nearby teeth to secure the implants, which means that more of your teeth are left in their natural, healthier state, and only those that really need to be replaced are. This has the effect of eliminating those teeth that do need to go, keeping the ones that are healthy, and providing all of them with a safe, secure, permanent anchor. Dental implants also improve access to spaces between the teeth, which is important for long-term care and maintenance of your teeth.
• Better Speech – People often underestimate how important good, well-aligned teeth can be to proper speech, and they’re amazed at how much difference good teeth help them to not only look better, but sound better. And for those with dentures, that often don’t fit into the mouth optimally, dental implants can be a huge plus, reducing common problems like slurring and mumbling. Because dental implants are fixed, you don’t need to worry about them slipping while you’re speaking.
• Enhanced Comfort – Dentures can be awkward, even painful, and there’s always the worry that they will slip out or become misaligned while you’re in a public place, or in the middle of a conversation. With dental implants, you don’t need to worry about that, as the implants are anchored and permanently fixed, just like real teeth.
• Better Eating – Dental implants act just like natural teeth, and they’re anchored permanently to your jaw. This means that eating becomes a lot easier, because your teeth are fixed and aligned. This gives you the advantage of being able to eat without having your teeth misaligned, which can cause a lot of pain and discomfort, and lead to even worse problems down the line. You also don’t have to worry about your dentures slipping in the middle of the meal, causing potentially embarrassing situations to occur.
• Greater Durability – Dental implants last a lifetime, longer than dentures and bridges in most cases, which will provide a firm foundation for your smile for a long time, if not a lifetime. This, in turn, lets you focus on living your life, rather worrying about your teeth.
• Convenience – When you live with dentures, you have to take care of them, make sure they stay in good shape, worry about them slipping, worry about losing them, and worry that people think they’re too noticeable. With dental implants, you don’t worry about any of that. The implants are just like regular teeth, to be seen and admired, but not to be constantly adjusted and maintained.
Best Candidates for Dental Implants
Dental implants have a pretty wide range of use cases, and are applicable to many different kinds of patients. Generally, in order to qualify for dental implants, you should be healthy enough to go through a common dental surgery such as a simple dental extraction, or other common oral surgical procedures. Other factors include relatively healthy gums, and enough bone structure to successfully secure the implants.
However, there are some conditions that may require additional evaluation before proceeding. People who smoke heavily, or people that deal with chronic conditions such as diabetes or heart disease may not be able to accept dental implants. Likewise, if you’ve had radiation treatment to the head/neck region, additional evaluation will be required.
If you deal with any of these conditions, consult your dentist to see if you can still benefit from dental implants.
In the end, whether dental implants work for you is a personal choice, which you should make after consulting with a dentist or oral surgeon. Also, you should look into financing, and whether dental implants are covered by your insurance. But, if you make the decision to proceed with dental implants, it can have a significantly positive effect on not just your looks, but your life in general.