Dental Implants In Depth


Your teeth are an important part of your mouth, playing many essential roles. When you suffer tooth loss, no matter if it is a single tooth or many teeth, your entire life is affected. Following tooth loss, it is essential that you have them replaced as soon as possible. Today, you have many options for replacing missing teeth. At Harry Albers DDS, we can replace missing teeth with dental implants, providing you with a permanent solution for your tooth loss and giving you back your life.

What Causes Tooth Loss?

There are many issues that can cause tooth loss. One of the biggest causes of tooth loss is advanced gum disease. When gum disease first begins, you might never even know that you have it. However, the longer gum disease goes untreated, the worse it becomes. Swollen gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth, leading to the formation of periodontal pockets.

These pockets collect plaque and bacteria, which causes them to grow deeper and deeper. Over time, bacteria reach the periodontal ligaments and jawbone. The bacteria cause these supporting structures to weaken, which causes your teeth to become loose. Eventually, they can fall out.

While gum disease is the most common cause of tooth loss, it is not the only one. There are several other issues that can lead to tooth loss as well. You may suffer tooth loss as a result of facial trauma. A facial injury may result in immediate tooth loss, or the teeth may be so severely damaged that they need to be extracted. Severely decayed teeth may need to be extracted.

You may also lose teeth as a result of bruxism. This is an issue in which you grind and clench your teeth. The constant pressure on your teeth can impact your periodontal ligaments and your jawbone, weakening these supporting structures. The pressure can also cause your teeth to wear down and break, leading to the need for extractions.

Effects of Tooth Loss

No matter what causes your tooth loss, the effects are all the same. One of the most obvious effects of tooth loss is what happens to your smile. When you lose your teeth, the quality of your smile suffers as do the impressions you leave with those around you. When your smile is affected, your confidence may also suffer, leading you to take steps to hide your smile from others.

The aesthetic issues caused by tooth loss are just the tip of the iceberg. When you suffer tooth loss, the everyday functions of your mouth are affected. Biting and chewing become more challenging, if not impossible. You may find that you are no longer able to enjoy many of your favorite foods. Missing teeth also make it difficult to chew your food properly, which can then result in issues with digestion and malnutrition.

Tooth loss affects how you talk. The teeth play an important role in proper speech, controlling airflow and providing a surface for your tongue to hit, allowing you to form all kinds of sounds and words. When you suffer tooth loss, you may develop a lisp or other speech complications. The more teeth you lose, the harder it becomes to speak properly, which can result in problems communicating with others. You may find that you have to repeat yourself several times.

Tooth loss also affects the jawbone. Your teeth play a critical role in the health of this bone. Every time you chew, the teeth stimulate the bone, which sends tells your body to send essential nutrients to the jaw and surrounding areas. Following tooth loss, your jawbone loses the stimulation from those missing teeth. With reduced stimulation, your body sends fewer nutrients. Over time, the bone begins to weaken and lose mass. The bone begins to change shape. This causes the remaining teeth in the jaw to shift out of alignment, altering your bite. The change in the shape of your jawbone also affects the shape of your face and causes sagging skin, a sunken facial appearance, and the formation of wrinkles.

What are Dental Implants?

There are several solutions for tooth loss. Traditionally, tooth loss has been dealt with using bridges or dentures. Today, you have the additional option of dental implants. Dental implants are a long-term, even permanent solution. This treatment uses small posts, typically made from titanium, that is surgically implanted into your jawbone.

Your bone gradually fuses to the posts, stabilizing them within the bone so that they can provide your replacement teeth. The teeth are made of ceramic and are designed to look exactly like the teeth they are replacing. Ceramic mimics many of the properties of your natural teeth, including the color of your real teeth and how your teeth reflect light. Ceramic is also a fairly strong material and can withstand most normal daily wear and tear.

Modern Treatment for Many Needs

Dental implants are an incredibly versatile treatment. They can be used in several different situations, including replacing a single tooth, replacing a few teeth, or even replacing an entire arch. There are several different types of dental implants allowing us to meet a variety of different needs. Common types of dental implants include:
•  Single tooth implants. A single tooth implant is one that is used to replace an individual tooth. This treatment uses a single post to support a single crown.
•  Multiple teeth implants. A multiple tooth implant is also commonly called an implant supported bridge. It is used to replace two or more consecutive missing teeth. The number of posts required depends upon your specific situation.
•  Implant supported dentures. An implant supported denture is one that is used to replace an entire arch of missing teeth. Typically, the teeth are supported by 6 to 8 implant posts.
•  All on 4. All on 4 is a type of implant-supported denture that is used when your jawbone is missing too much bone mass to support the 6 to 8 posts needed to anchor the replacement teeth in place. Rather than undergoing a bone graft, this treatment uses only 4 posts which are strategically placed in your jawbone to provide optimal support.

How Did Dental Implants Come to Be?

Believe it or not, dental implants have been around for thousands of years. There have been discoveries of implants in human remains all around the world, including ancient Egyptian mummies and Middle Eastern skeletons. In these cases, evidence shows that the implants were placed after death as a way to prepare the body for the afterlife.

One interesting discovery was the body of a young Mayan woman dating back to about 600 AD. The implant placed in her jaw was made of seashell and bone. The interesting thing about this implant was that evidence shows that her jawbone had begun to fuse to the implant, indicating that it had been placed while she was still alive.

The implants we know and use today are the result of an accidental discovery made in the 1950s. A Swedish orthopedic surgeon by the name of Per-Invar Brånemark was researching bone healing and regeneration. During his research, he placed a titanium cylinder in the femur of a rabbit. Later, when he tried to remove the cylinder, he found that the bone had begun to fuse to the titanium. Brånemark had discovered osseointegration.

This unanticipated discovery sparked Brånemark to conduct further research, using both animal and human subjects. Eventually, he developed the first dental implants, which were successfully placed in 1965. Even after placement, more research and development were conducted, allowing for the improvement of the treatment.

Even today, research and development are continually being conducted to improve the strength and reliability of implants as well as making them available to more tooth loss patients. There is even research being conducted to find materials other than titanium that can provide the same incredible results. This has led to the discovery of zirconia implants, a type of implant that provides a metal-free option.

Getting Your Implants

Getting dental implants is more involved in getting a bridge or denture. Implants require surgery for placement. Surgery is done under a local anesthetic and sedation. First, small incisions are made in the gums, providing access to the jawbone underneath. Next, holes are drilled into the bone, and the implant posts are immediately placed. Next, the gums are sutured closed. A small amount of each post is left above the gum line. Finally, temporary teeth are secured into place.

Because dental implants require surgery, there is a recovery period afterward. The length of your recovery depends upon several factors, including how many implant posts have been placed. During your recovery period, your bone gradually fuses to the posts, stabilizing them within your jaw. Several follow up appointments enable us to monitor your healing and ensure there are no complications.

Once you have fully healed from implant surgery, your final dental restorations are designed and placed. This process typically requires two additional appointments. During the first appointment, the temporary teeth are removed and the abutments, or connectors, are placed, and impressions of your mouth are taken. These impressions are used to design and fabricate your permanent restorations. Once your final restorations are complete, they are checked to ensure proper fit, bite, and appearance before being secured into place with small screws.

Do Dental Implants Require Special Care?

Dental implants are incredible for many reasons, including the fact that they can be cared for just like your natural teeth. You can, and should, brush and floss them just like you would brush and floss your real teeth. Even though the ceramic cannot decay, and therefore cannot develop cavities, the material can still collect plaque and bacteria. When plaque and bacteria build up on your implants, you can develop gum disease.

If gum disease develops and goes untreated, your gum tissue begins to pull away from the teeth, allowing bacteria below the gum line. Eventually, the bacteria can begin to attack your jawbone, which can weaken the stability of your implants and even lead to implant failure. Proper care of your dental implants helps to ensure optimal oral health, a beautiful smile, and the longevity of your dental restorations.

Benefits of Dental Implants

There are numerous benefits associated with dental implants. Common benefits of implants include:
•  A completely natural appearance. The ceramic looks exactly like your real teeth, matching the color and light reflection properties of your tooth enamel. Your gums also sit around the crowns just like the tissue sits around your real teeth.
•  They feel and function just like your natural teeth. You can bite, chew, and speak normally.
•  They are stable. You do not have to worry about your replacement teeth slipping out of place or falling out, issues that can cause pain and embarrassment.
•  Greater comfort. Your teeth are supported by the posts implanted into your jaw, rather than your gums or adjacent teeth.
•  They provide a permanent solution for tooth loss. Your jawbone fuses to the posts, integrating them into your jaw. The posts essentially become a part of your jaw. The replacement teeth are also secured into place with small screws and are not meant to be removed unless professional maintenance is needed.
•  The implant posts help to preserve the strength and integrity of your jawbone. As you chew, the posts stimulate your jawbone, just like the roots of your real teeth. This stimulation tells your body to send the nutrients needed to keep the bone strong and healthy. Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that provides this benefit.

Am I a Candidate for Dental Implants?

Dental implants can be used in many different situations. However, a consultation is still needed to ensure that they are the best option to meet your specific needs. Candidates for dental implants are missing at least one tooth. You may also be a candidate if you need tooth extraction, but you are not yet missing any teeth.

You are never too old for dental implants. They can be placed if you are in your 30s, your 50s, your 70s, or even later. Seniors can enjoy the same benefits as younger adults. While you are never too old, however, you can be too young. Dental implants are not recommended if your jawbone is still growing and developing.

Your health plays an important role in your candidacy for dental implants. This is because implants require surgery. If you have gum disease, the condition needs to be treated first to reduce the risk of infection. If you have any chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, these conditions need to be well-managed before you can receive treatment.

Your lifestyle habits also factor in. Habits like smoking and drinking can affect your healing, leaving you more vulnerable to infections and implant failure. It is recommended that you quit these habits before undergoing surgery.

Finally, the condition of your jawbone plays a significant role in your ability to receive dental implants. The stability of implants relies significantly on the fusion of your jawbone to the posts. If your bone is too weak, it cannot fuse properly. Just because your bone is considered too weak initially, though, this does not mean you will be relegated to dentures or a bridge. To receive implants, you may first need to undergo a bone graft to restore strength to your jawbone. Once you have healed from a bone graft, then the implant procedure can begin.

Dental implants provide you with a permanent solution for tooth loss, restoring the functions of your missing teeth, the beauty of your smile, and your quality of life. If you have suffered tooth loss and want to find out if dental implants are the right solution for you, contact Harry Albers DDS at (707) 806-0545 to schedule your appointment today.

(707) 806-0545
1100 Sonoma Ave Suite E-1, Santa Rosa, CA 95405



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