If you are missing teeth, you may feel embarrassed every time you smile. You may notice you slur certain words, and you may experience discomfort when you eat. Often included in a smile makeover, dental implants are an effective, long-term way to replace one or more missing teeth.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a secure and stable way to replace a missing tooth. A titanium screw is placed beneath the gums, where your missing tooth’s roots used to be, as a foundation. A dental crown or bridge is then placed on top to replace the visible portion of the tooth.
Once placed, dental implants undergo a process called “osseointegration,” during which the implant fuses with the bone where it was placed. This process creates a strong bond, and your implant will not shift. Implants can often last a lifetime.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
Dental implants are optimal for replacing missing teeth, because they are implanted in bone. Dental implants replace the entire tooth structure, and they can be utilized to replace a single tooth or many missing teeth.
The structure of a dental implant consists of three parts:
- The titanium screw implanted below the gums
- The abutment, which is a small metal post that serves to connect the titanium implant with the replacement tooth on top
- A dental crown or bridge to replace the visible portion of the missing tooth
A crown will be used to replace a single missing teeth, or just a few missing teeth. If you are missing many teeth in a row, a dental bridge or dentures may be used instead. During your dental implants consultation, Dr. Schmid will discuss your options and help you find the best treatment option for your individual case.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Dental implants are inserted directly into the jawbone where they act as replacements for the roots of missing teeth. This is the primary function of dental implants, and also their most significant benefit.
When a tooth is missing, so too is its root. The roots of your teeth both anchor the teeth to the jaw and ensure proper mineralization remains around each tooth. When a root goes away, the signals it sends are lost, allowing the body to reabsorb minerals around the missing tooth and produce a sunken or collapsed appearance. By replacing the roots of missing teeth, dental implants prevent jaw collapse and preserve the natural structure of your face.
In addition to preventing changes to the structure of your jaw, dental implants offer the following benefits:
- Complete restoration of bite tension
- Prevention of adjacent tooth slippage
- Entirely natural-looking end results
- Full restoration of strength and function
Implants are generally considered the best way to replace a missing tooth, but they are not right for everyone. Depending on your unique situation, dentures or bridges may be a better option.
Are You a Candidate for Dental Implants?
Most people who are missing teeth are candidates for implants. However, a comprehensive examination by an experienced dentist is necessary to determine if you are a good candidate. Generally, an ideal candidate for dental implants has:
- One or more missing teeth
- Adequate bony tissue at the site of the missing tooth
- Healthy gums
- The ability to quit smoking (if a smoker)
- No uncontrolled chronic health conditions
Smoking greatly increases the risk of implant failure, and increases the risk of complications during surgery as well. If you smoke or use tobacco products, you will need to be able to quit for at least a month before implant surgery.
In addition, chronic health conditions such as diabetes can create complications with implants. It is important for any health problems to be under control and to have clearance from your primary care doctor to undergo dental implant surgery. In some cases, precautions can be taken to prevent the risk of implant failure, while in other cases an alternative such as a dental bridge may be recommended.
Implant Supported Dentures
If you have several missing teeth in a row, or if an entire arch of teeth needs to be replaced, using crowns to fill each space is generally not economical or practical. In these cases, implant supported dentures can be a good option.
Implant supported dentures offer more stability than regular adhesive secured dentures, and are better for retaining jaw shape. Dr. Schmid offers both full and partial implant supported dentures, depending on your individual needs.
Full dentures utilize small bars running the length of the jaw which the dentures clip onto. Partial dentures are secured using a ball and socket setup. The implants will have a socket into which balls on the back of the dentures can be inserted. If this option is available, you may also be a candidate for a dental crown or bridge, rather than partial dentures.
Dr. Schmid will discuss all of your options during your consultation to help you find the best treatment plan. There are risks and advantages to every dental procedure, and Dr. Schmid’s aim is to make sure you are fully informed about which procedures you are a candidate for and which ones are more likely to help you reach your goals.
The Dental Implant Process
While the initial placement of dental implants takes only one office visit, the entire process can take several months, and you will need to return for follow-up visits to our Austin dental practice. The timeline for placement of a dental implant generally runs as follows:
- The implant is surgically placed in your jaw.
- Time is allowed for osseointegration. This can take up to 6 months or longer.
- The implant is accepted and fused to your jaw.
- Return to our office for placement of a temporary crown.
- Return to our office once more for removal of the temporary crown and placement of your permanent crown. Your permanent crown will have been shaped, sized, and colored to blend seamlessly into your smile.
Dental implants are one of the best dental investments a person can make. They can last a lifetime, prevent your jaw from losing bone and collapsing, help keep other teeth stable and healthy, and help you to maintain better overall dental health.
It is also important to keep returning for regular teeth cleanings in order to keep your new implant and remaining teeth healthy and bright.
Consequences of Missing Teeth
You may not think that replacing a missing tooth is a big deal, but leaving missing teeth alone without replacing them in some manner can have far reaching consequences. Among these are:
- Shrunken jaw bone
- Receding gums
- Weakened neighboring teeth
- Older appearance due to hollow, sagging cheeks with less or no tooth support
Once you lose a tooth, the roots no longer stimulate the jaw bone, resulting in bone loss and gum recession. This in turn weakens neighboring teeth, which can then collapse, creating a chain effect in which you lose more and more teeth. In addition, the teeth play a role in supporting the cheeks. Without this tooth support, your lower face will start to appear hollow and the skin will begin to sag.
In addition to the aforementioned problems, missing teeth cause issues with speaking and eating. You may find it difficult to pronounce certain words, and depending on which tooth (or how many teeth) is missing, eating may become a challenge.
Schedule Your Dental Implant Consultation in Austin Today
If you have one or more missing teeth, don’t hesitate to schedule your free consultation with Dr. Schmid at Contemporary Cosmetic Dentistry by calling 512-329-5967. He will be glad to help determine if you are a good candidate for a dental implant, and go over your options for restoring a beautiful, healthy smile. You can also go to our contact page and send us an appointment request form, and our staff will help you set up your meeting.
We serve patients in Austin, Bee Cave, Lakeway, and nearby areas of Texas.