Dental Implants are becoming the method of choice for replacing missing teeth. There are several reasons why this is so. Even though completing the procedure can take an extended period of time compared to more traditional methods of replacing lost teeth, the final results are superior. Some patients who choose this method find that they are not good candidates for the procedure. Such patients may benefit from bone grafting in order to make the implant successful.
The Case for Dental Implants
For most people, a beautiful complete smile provides a sense of self-esteem and feelings of self-confidence. A nice smile says a lot about a person and can make a difference in how others perceive you. When you have teeth missing, especially within your smile area, the loss can have a big impact on various aspects of your life.
Not only might you become more self-conscious because you find your smile less than appealing, you may begin smiling less, lose feelings of self-confidence and wonder if others are noticing your marred look. Missing teeth can affect your advancement on the job and may affect your social prospects. Replacing them is very advantageous no matter what method you choose; however, dental implants have significant advantages.
Dental implants look and feel like a natural tooth. They also have the advantage of being anchored in your jawbone, giving them the benefit of being able to function as well as a natural tooth. The implant integrates with the bone in your jaw over time. The implant itself – the pin that is inserted into the jawbone – is made of titanium, a biocompatible material. The living bone fuses to the pin, creating a strong bond.
A crown is placed on the pin, giving the implant a very natural look. The crown is made to mimic the translucence of a natural tooth. In traditional procedures, the end product may look natural, but there are features of the artificial device that cannot be hidden, especially around the base of the fake tooth. Dental implants are placed in such a way that these telltale signs are not readily visible. Hence, they provide a completely natural-looking finish.
Dental implants are also durable. They provide a reliable and permanent solution for restoration of missing teeth. They are designed to last for decades and with improvements in techniques and materials, you can expect your dental implant to last a lifetime with proper care. Traditional dental bridgework and removable partials need to be replaced from time to time. This is seldom the case with dental implants when they are checked regularly and cared for properly.
Dental implants also have the advantage of not affecting your natural teeth. Dental bridges and removable partials can weaken adjacent teeth. The dental bridge is supported by the two teeth on either side of the gap caused by the missing teeth. These teeth, called abutment teeth, can become weak over time and may become more susceptible to decay. This is due to the additional stress the abutment teeth must endure in supporting the bridge. The removable partial also relies on the adjacent teeth for support. Extra strain on these natural teeth can potentially lead to them become loose in their sockets over time. By contrast, dental implants are stand-alone tooth replacements. The dental implant is not reliant on your natural teeth for support. The titanium pin of the dental implant is inserted directly into the jawbone and with bone integration, it is supported by the jaw, the same as your natural teeth.
Dental implants also do not require any special care other than the same great oral hygiene you provide for your natural teeth. Flossing and brushing are the same as usual. Other devices require specialized care to keep them clean and in good shape. Dentures may require adhesive pastes or powders to help hold them in and they can become dislodged when you are eating or speaking. This is not the case with dental implants.
Another important advantage of dental implants is the prevention of bone loss. Any time a tooth is extracted or missing, the bone in that area will eventually resorb and become thinner. This process can affect your facial features. Many people look older than they are due to the bone loss caused by missing teeth. This bone loss can also weaken the jawbone and make it more susceptible to fractures. The dental implant fuses to the bone and the stimulation it receives in everyday functioning keeps the surrounding bone tissue healthy and strong.
What happens when you decide you want an implant, but the tooth or teeth you are replacing have been gone for a long period of time and your jawbone is not strong enough to support a dental implant? Does this mean you have lost out on the opportunity? Not necessarily. Bone grafting provides a solution for the patient who can benefit from a dental implant but does not have sufficient bone for a successful procedure.
When Is Bone Grafting Needed?
Patients who are replacing a tooth or teeth that have been missing for years may find that their jawbone has already experienced shrinkage in the area where the implant would be placed. These areas are thinner and sometimes too soft for a dental implant. The pressure exerted by chewing would cause the implant to fail if it were placed in weakened bone. Grafting new bone into the area helps create a more solid base. Bone grafting may be required for patients with development defects or face injury or trauma.
Bone Grafting Materials
Rebuilding part of the jawbone can be done with a variety of bone grafting materials. Natural bone can be harvested from another part of the patient’s body. In this situation, a sliver of bone is most often taken from the hip or the back part of the jaw. Synthetic bone grafting material is also used in some instances.
Hydroxyapatite is a synthetic used for its ability to grow bone on the surface. It also has a hardness factor and it is biocompatible with natural bone. Other materials used for bone grafting include sterilized cadaver bone and bovine bone.
Types of Dental Bone Grafts
There are various bone grafts and your dentist will determine the best type for your situation. The most common type is the socket graft, in which the bone piece (usually human) is placed in the socket. The bone is allowed to integrate for about 4-6 months before proceeding with the implant process.
A lateral ridge preservation graft is used when the jawbone is too narrow. This type of graft is used to increase the width of the jawbone.
When there are large defects in the jawbone, a block bone graft may be used. Donor bone is often harvested from the back of the jawbone for this type of graft. The block of donor bone is placed into the defective area and held in place with titanium screws.
Implants on the upper jaw may require what is called a “sinus lift.” In this scenario the donor bone is used to create an area to support additional gone growth in the sinus. Generally, the upper jaw is less stable for dental implants.
After the Bone Graft Procedure
Once the donor bone material has been placed, healing will begin. You may be prescribed antibiotics to prevent infection and pain medication if necessary. Usually if a patient stays on their antibiotics as prescribed, there is little to no pain after the grafting procedure.
The natural bone will need to fuse to the graft. Every mouth is different, so the process could take as little as three months or up to a year. Your dentist will tell you how often to come in for checkups to see how the healing process is progressing. When the graft has healed adequately, the implant process will begin.
If you are considering getting a dental implant, call on the implant experts. Aesthetic & Implant Dentistry of Atlanta will help you achieve your complete, amazing new smile with our state-of-the-art technology. Call today to schedule your examination and consultation with one of our specialists.