Dental implants have been around for decades. In their fledgling days, they could replace a single tooth lost to decay or trauma. As dentistry has advanced, so too has the way dentists are able to use implants to help patients regain a smile they’re proud of. In fact, if you lose a significant number of your teeth, your dentist may be able to replace them all at once. There’s a good reason there’s a fuss about dental implants: They can give people their confidence and quality of life back.
What Is a Dental Implant?
Dental implants are designed to replace natural teeth; they can also fill a gap where an adult tooth never grew in. Implants come in two main forms, endosteal and subperiosteal. Endosteal dental implants are placed directly in your jawbone. After the metal implant fuses with bone, your doctor will schedule a second appointment to place a post and crown. Subperiosteal implants involve placing a metal frame beneath your gum tissue, then adding posts and a fake tooth to the frame. In either case, people will only see the crown, giving you a pearly smile with no one the wiser about your implant.
Advancements in Bone Growth
When you get a tooth pulled, your body’s natural reaction is for the jawbone to deteriorate. Without a tooth in place, your bone may become weak, making future implant placement a challenge. However, these days, doctors have ridge augmentation and synthetic bone grafting materials at their disposal. This allows your jawbone to remain strong enough to accept an implant, increasing the chances of success.
New Implant Materials
The advent of titanium and later, 3D imaging and 3D printing, has delivered faster and more accurate implants to patients. Technology now allows doctors to use a computer to visualize and even practice the placement of implant using a scan of the patient’s jaw. This makes the process not only faster, but its precision leads to better patient outcomes. In fact, in some cases you may be able to have the titanium post and fake tooth placed in a single visit — especially if you are replacing a front tooth. The improvement in materials and expediency has more patients than ever asking about getting rid of their flipper or dentures in favor of an implant.
One of the most exciting advances in implants is the all-on-four. Patients who would previously have been resigned to dentures after the loss of all their top and/or bottom teeth have another option now. If you are among the 35 million Americans missing all of your upper or lower teeth, your dentist may be able to strategically place four posts in your jaw and place a series of implants. In fact, an entire arch of teeth can be restored using just four posts using the aptly named all-on-four method.
Dental implants are all the rage for good reason. They have come a long way, allowing you to leave the office with an entire mouthful of new teeth using the all-four-one. Even if you’re missing a single tooth, implants may allow you to forgo a traditional bridge, which requires you to treat healthy adjoining teeth. Treat only the gaps in your teeth with implants, which last a lifetime, and you will be smiling wider than ever!