Sometimes, losing teeth is simply inevitable. If this happens, we always advise patients to take action promptly: it is crucial to replace the tooth as soon as possible to prevent further problems in the future.
There are many tooth replacements options available, but dental implants are by far the most convenient alternative. No other treatment offers the same advantages and long-lasting results, and although they might not seem as affordable as other options, they certainly represent a long-term investment.
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What are dental implants?
Dental implants can be defined as small titanium posts that replace the roots of the missing teeth. These posts are surgically placed along the jawbone, and due to a particular characteristic of the implant’s surface, they are chemically fused to the bone after a few months.
Titanium is a biocompatible material (not harmful or toxic to living tissue), and its most important feature is that it promotes osseointegration. This physiological process can take up to 9 months and triggers the deposit of new bone tissue around the implant. Once osseointegration is completed, implants are firmly integrated into natural bone.
Dental implants have countless advantages, including:
- PREVENTION OF BONE LOSS: dental implants are the only restoration that avoids the resorptive process that typically comes along with tooth loss. This characteristic is essential, as bone loss can alter facial aesthetics, making people look older than they are.
- NATURAL RESULTS: dental implants have excellent aesthetic results when restored with porcelain bridges or crowns. Nobody will notice that you’re teeth aren’t natural.
- LONG-TERM SOLUTION: Dental implants can last a lifetime when adequately cared for. It only takes good oral hygiene and frequent check-up visits.
- MORE COMFORT: no other restoration offer the same comfort. You will bite and chew like you used to, no matter how complex, chewy or sticky the food is.
Dental implants: the step-by-step
This procedure varies according to the particularities of each case, but a typical treatment goes as follows:
IMPLANT PLACEMENT: after a detailed diagnosis and treatment plan, the dentist determines in which angle and position the dental implants need to be placed. To surgically place the implants, the dentist will first numb the area and expose the jawbone through one or more incisions. Once he directly sees the bone, he screws the implants into the jawbone and closes the wound with stitches.
HEALING TIME: patients need to wait a few months for the correct osseointegration of the implants. You will wear a temporary denture, bridge, or crown during this time. You’ll also be asked to schedule frequent check-up visits so the dentist can check the healing process.
FINAL IMPRESSIONS: once the osseointegration is completed, you will return to the clinic to take the last impressions. These impressions are sent to the dental lab, which will manufacture the crowns or bridges according to our dentist’s instructions. This might take a few weeks, but you still be wearing the temporary restorations in the meantime.
PERMANENT RESTORATION: when the permanent restorations are back from the dental lab, we will ask you to return to the clinic to have them placed. In this appointment, the dentist will ensure that the restorations fit correctly and that you are happy with the results.
Am I a suitable candidate?
Dental implants are an excellent solution for any patient missing one or more teeth. Depending on how many teeth the patient is missing, implants can house other restorations:
- Crowns: implants are restored with dental crowns when only one tooth is missing.
- Bridges: dental bridges are used when two or more adjacent teeth have been lost.
- Implant-retained dentures: this type of denture is indicated when a patient has lost all teeth in a dental arch.
However, not everyone has the right conditions to receive this kind of treatment. Patients interested in this therapy need the appropriate quality and quantity of bone tissue. What does this mean? Some patients, especially those who lost their teeth some time ago, might need an extra procedure to ensure that their jawbone is ready for the implants. This surgery is a minor bone graft, in which dentists add a grafting material that becomes natural bone tissue over time. This technique allows the dentist to place the implants a few months after the surgery.
An accurate diagnosis is the only way to determine whether the patient is suitable for dental implants. The dentist will ask for X-rays and 3D studies, and the treatment will begin if he considers that there’s enough bone tissue. If not, he will consider the option of a grafting technique or other alternatives.
Are there any alternatives to dental implants?
Dr Dubal knows that no two smiles are the same. So although dental implants are the gold standard in teeth replacement options, he understands that they might not be the best choice for all patients. Sometimes they cannot receive this kind of treatment for medical reasons or prefer other alternatives. That’s why it is vital to understand all teeth replacement options before deciding. The alternatives to dental implants are:
- Full dentures: complete dentures are a suitable alternative for those patients missing all teeth in a dental arch. They are a practical option that allows patients to smile confidently and chew better. However, complete dentures can be uncomfortable as they don’t allow you to chew as effectively as implants or natural teeth, limiting your diet. They need constant relining as they don’t prevent bone loss.
- Partial dentures are a good choice for patients with several missing teeth but still have some healthy teeth that can be used for retention and support. Just like complete dentures, they allow you to speak and eat more efficiently and have even better retention, making them more comfortable to wear. Nevertheless, they are less stable than other teeth replacement options and usually require more frequent repairs.
- Conventional fixed bridges: Unlike the alternatives mentioned before, bridges are a fixed restoration. They are indicated when patients miss one or two consecutive teeth and have healthy teeth at both ends of the gap. They are more similar to natural teeth in function and appearance and won’t come loose at any time. The only drawback is that bridges require crowns on the adjacent teeth, which can provoke further problems for those healthy teeth in the near future.
Dental implants offer multiple benefits to those patients missing one or more teeth. We invite anyone interested in this treatment to contact our clinic and schedule a consultation with Dr Dubal!