The field of dentistry has made a lot of progress in the recent decades. However, millions of people across the globe suffer from dental problems. Tooth loss is one of the most common problems. It may be due to a number reasons including tooth decay, gum disease, injuries and chronic health conditions. Until recent years, bridges and dentures were the only treatment options for tooth loss. However, dental implants are available today. They provide an effective and permanent solution.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made of titanium. They provide a foundation for permanent/removable replacement teeth. If proper oral hygiene is maintained, dental implants can last a lifetime.
Dental implants offer many advantages. These include:
Natural appearance: Dental implants look very similar to natural teeth. In fact, if the procedure is performed properly, it is very difficult to distinguish between natural teeth and dental implants. Dental implants can be distinguished only by close inspection.
Durability: Dental implants are durable and last many years. Because dental implants fuse with the bone, they are more or less permanent. If proper oral hygiene is maintained, they will last a long time without causing any problems.
Convenience and comfort: Dental implants offer a lot more convenience than dentures. Unlike dentures, they are permanent. This eliminates the inconvenience of removing and inserting them. Additionally, they also do not require adhesives to keep them in place. It could be said that dental implants are as convenient as natural teeth. Dental implants work and behave in the same way as natural teeth. They are a more comfortable option when compared to dentures and dental bridges.
Improved oral health: Dental implants provide for improved oral health. This is because unlike other options such as dental bridges, it is not necessary to reduce other teeth while placing dental implants. Since other teeth are not altered in any way, natural teeth are left intact. This is beneficial for long-term oral health.
Easier and improved chewing: Dental implants work just like normal teeth. Tooth loss can make chewing foods very difficult. It can also affect digestion. Dental implants eliminate all these issues and allow you to eat your favorite foods with confidence and without having to worry. The same convenience is not available with other options such as dentures.
Improved speech and confidence: Tooth loss can affect your appearance and personality adversely. It can also affect the way you speak. Dentures do not adequately address this issue. Dentures can slip in your mouth and cause you to mumble words. On the other hand, dental implants are very stable. They allow you to speak without worry. They are a good way to regain your lost speech and confidence.
Success rates of dental implants
A number of factors determine the success rates of dental implants. Generally dental implants have success rate of more than 98%. In other words, dental implants are highly successful and stable. If proper oral care is followed, dental implants have a long life.
Deciding on dental implants
Placement of dental implants involves at least one surgical operation. For dental implants to be successful, it is necessary to have healthy gums and jawbone to support the implant.
Almost everyone is a candidate for dental implants. However, heavy smokers, patient suffering from chronic disorder such as diabetes or heart disease, and those who have undergone radiation therapy have to be evaluated to ascertain if they are suitable for dental implants. Consult your dentist/healthcare provider for more information and evaluation if you’re considering dental implants.
Your dentist will inform you about the procedure and any pain you might experience. It is important to understand what is to be expected before you decide to go ahead with the procedure. Your dentist will also inform you about the risks and benefits of dental implants. If you have any questions, you should get them clarified from your dentist. You will have to sign a consent form before the procedure.
It is important to get the procedure performed by a dentist who has adequate training and qualifications. Do not be afraid to ask your dentist about his/her prior experience. Also ensure that the dental clinic has accreditation from the regulating authority in your country. Dental implants are a costly procedure and it is your right to get what you’re paying for.
Dental implant surgery
Before performing the procedure, the dentist will take an x-ray scan of your mouth. This will enable the dentist to check the condition of the jawbone and if it is suitable for placing the dental implant. The x-ray scan will also enable the dentist to locate other structures such as nerves present in the mouth. If x-rays do not provide the required details, a CT scan may also be used.
Generally, dental implant surgery is performed under local anesthesia. Though the patient will be awake, he/she will not experience any pain. A sedative may also be given to reduce anxiety. Sometimes, the procedure may be performed under general anesthesia. However, this is done very rarely.
Dental implants are made of titanium. A dental implant has an internal screw, known as the abutment which holds the false tooth/teeth in place. A single dental implant can support multiple replacement teeth. The number of dental implants required will be determined based on the number of teeth that had to be replaced and the strength of the jawbone.
The first step in the implant process is to develop an individualized plan of treatment. The treatment plan will be based on the requirements and health condition of the patient. The dental implant is then placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. It is left to heal for 6 to 12 weeks. During this period, the jawbone grows around the implant and stabilizes it. After the implant has bonded with the jawbone, artificial teeth are attached to the abutment. The new tooth will be based on a model created by taking impressions of her teeth. The replacement tooth is known as the crown. The crown is made to resemble the color of the natural teeth. Once the crown is secured in place, it will look and feel just like natural teeth.
Dental implant surgery can take several months. This is because sufficient time is needed for the gums to heal before the next procedure can be carried out. After the dental implant is secured, the dentist may wait for 3 to 6 months before the false teeth are attached.
What to expect afterwards
You may have to rest for some time after the procedure. You can go home as soon as you feel ready. If the procedure was done under local anesthesia, it can take a few hours before normalization is restored in your mouth. Your dentist may prescribe painkillers to reduce discomfort after the anesthesia wears off.
You should ask somebody to stay with you after the procedure until the effects go away and you start feeling normal again. You should also not drive or operate machinery until you start feeling normal again.
You should eat only soft foods for the first few days after surgery. Avoid hot foods and drinks. It is important to keep your mouth clean. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss and use a medicated mouthwash. You should use a soft bristle toothbrush to prevent injury.
If you experience pain or discomfort, you can take over-the-counter painkillers such as paracetamol. If you experience more pain or other side effects, you should consult your dentist immediately. You also need to visit your dentist often after the procedure. Depending on the treatment plan, the time it takes for full recovery will vary. Once you have recovered fully, your dental implants will work just like natural teeth.
Complications of dental implant surgery
Dental implants generally have minimal complications. However, in rare cases you may experience tingling or numbness. This may be because of damage to nerves by the implant. The sensation may be temporary or permanent. This is why X-rays and CT scans are performed to identify the nerves and prevent damage to them.
In some cases, the jawbone may not fuse properly with the implant. This can cause the implant to become loose. However, this is not painful. You may need another procedure to rectify the issue. Follow-up checks are necessary to ensure that dental implants are secure.
Does dental insurance cover the cost of dental implants?
Usually, dental insurance companies do not cover dental implants. However, coverage under your medical plan may be possible. Consult your dentist or insurance provider to know more about the options that may be available to you.
Dental implants are a costly procedure. However, they may cost significantly less in certain countries such as India. You can check if getting the procedure done in such countries is an option.
Alternatives to dental implants
Dental implants are the best option to replace lost teeth. However, other alternatives are also available. Alternatives to dental implants include:
Removable dentures: These are made of plastic or metal frameworks that hold false teeth in place. Since they are removable, they do not have the same stability as dental implants.
Dental bridges: Dental bridges are false teeth that are fixed to adjacent natural teeth. Though they aid in chewing, they are not aesthetically appealing.
If dental implants are not an option, you can consider these alternatives.