If you have one or more missing teeth, or are in need of a tooth extraction, you may be considering tooth replacement options. Luckily, modern dentistry offers a variety of different restoration options for replacing missing teeth. One such option are dental implants. Dental implants are considered to be the gold standard of tooth replacement options and are recommended by many dentists.
However, dental implants are not right for everybody. While they may offer the perfect tooth replacement option for one person, they may not work as well for another. Therefore, it is important to determine if you are an ideal candidate for dental implants before undergoing the procedure to have them placed.
To understand why dental implants may not work for everybody, we must look at the basic structure of the implant, as well as how they work. As mentioned before, dental implants are artificial tooth roots. This means that they are placed into the jawbone, just like natural tooth roots. A small metal piece called an abutment is screwed into the implant to act as a connector for the dental prosthetic. The abutment is the only visible piece of the implant that sticks out from the gums and will eventually be covered by a dental crown, bridge, or denture.
Once the implant screw has been placed in the jawbone, it must undergo a process called osseointegration whereby new bone is growth around the implant screw in order to fuse it in place. This process takes about 3-6 months on average and must occur for the implant procedure to be considered successful. This fusion with the surrounding bone is what gives the implant its strength.
Since the implant screw must fuse with the surrounding jaw bone, ideal candidates for dental implants will need to have adequate bone mass. Bone loss in the jaw usually begins to occur about 6 months after a tooth is lost. For this reason, dentists recommend having dental implants placed shortly after losing a tooth or having it extracted.
In some cases, patients with minimal bone mass may be able to have an additional procedure called a bone graft or sinus lift. Both procedures are used to increase bone mass by placing bone material at the proposed implant site to encourage the growth of new bone. Bone grafts are commonly used in the lower jaw, while sinus lifts are performed in the upper jaw to build up the bone between the mouth and the sinus cavity.
While adequate bone mass is the most important factor in determining whether you are an ideal candidate for dental implants, another important factor is healthy gums. Gum disease can cause bone loss, as well as postoperative complications such as infections. To prevent complications and aim for the best treatment outcomes, implant dentists will treat gum disease before placing dental implants.
Overall, the two main determining factors for whether you are an ideal candidate for dental implants are the presence of adequate bone mass and the absence of active gum disease. However, there are various other factors that can also contribute to whether or not you are an ideal candidate. For this reason, the best way to determine your candidacy for dental implants is to schedule an appointment with your local dental implant specialist. This allows you to receive an oral examination and a professional dental opinion on whether or not dental implants are right for you.
Dr. Kramer earned his Doctor of Dental Surgery degree in 1978 from the University of Maryland School of Dentistry, and has maintained his private practice in the Newport Beach area since 1985. His expertise stems from extensive high-level post-graduate study with the masters in the field in the areas of advanced cosmetic reconstructive dentistry, implant dentistry, and sedation dentistry.Dr. Kramer holds current membership with the Dental Organization for Conscious Sedation and is recognized as a Fellow of the International Congress of Oral Implantology for his dental implant work.