WHAT ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
A dental implant is a metal post that functions as a replacement tooth root. Once your dentist surgically places the implant in the bone of the jaw, new bone forms around the implant to firmly hold it in place. Implants can also support dental restorations like crowns and bridges, just like regular teeth. They can even support full or partial dentures and give them more stability in the mouth.
Dentists place implants in bone below the gums, so they aren’t normally visible in the mouth. In order to attach things like crowns, bridges, and dentures, your dentist will have to install connector pieces called “abutments” as well. The abutment attaches to the implant and the restoration attaches to the abutment(s).
Although dental implants are very durable and can function for a long time (often forever!), you’ll still want to keep the gums around the implant restorations clean and bacteria-free. Just like you can lose natural teeth due to periodontal disease, your dentist may need to remove an implant if there’s an infection around it.
Crowns and other implant-supported restorations and prostheses are often indistinguishable from natural teeth. The implant and abutment themselves are functionally invisible once your dentist attaches the replacement tooth. Implant are a great way to reestablish the original appearance and function of your teeth.
WHEN WOULD I NEED A DENTAL IMPLANT?
Dentists place implants as anchors for artificial teeth. You would choose to have one placed if you had a tooth extracted and wanted it replaced. Like other artificial tooth options, you’ll never “need” a dental implant, but they’re an attractive alternative to other methods.
When you want to have an artificial tooth replace a missing one, ask your dentist about dental implants. Gum disease, poor dental hygiene, and smoking may affect your ability to be a candidate for dental implants. Unfortunately, few dental insurers cover implants. Ask your dental insurer if they cover dental implants, or even a portion of them.
WHY SHOULD I CHOOSE DENTAL IMPLANTS?
Dental implants aren’t for everyone, but they have some definite advantages over other tooth replacement options. Once healing occurs, implants are fused to your bone, so they’re often more durable than other replacement options, including bridges.
Dental implants don’t require using healthy teeth to support the replacement tooth. To install a dental bridge, the teeth on either side of the space need to be reduced in size with a dental drill. If those teeth are otherwise healthy with no need to be restored on their own, it’s probably better to have an implant and implant-supported crown instead. Implants simply fit into the space where the old tooth was. Implants do not disrupt the health and regular function of other teeth in the mouth, the way other tooth replacement options can.
If you need an artificial tooth installed, you should consider dental implants if you:
- Don’t mind paying more for a more reliable treatment option
- Want something that’s as easy as a natural tooth to maintain and keep clean
- Want to restore your natural smile as much as possible
- Don’t want to drill on or reduce any other teeth in your mouth
- Want your replacement tooth/teeth to be as sturdy as possible
- If you’re interested in dental implants, you should ask your dentist about them during your next appointment. They’ll be able to tell you everything you need to know about implants and whether they’re right for you.