At one time, dentures were the only option for missing teeth. Today, dental implants have become much more common, and for good reason – in addition to their other benefits, they save the jaw bone. A visit to the prosthodontist can mean the difference between strong, healthy bone that supports the other facial structures and promotes a younger appearance, or sunken, aged cheeks and mouth.
Dental implants consist of thee pieces: the implant itself, an abutment and a prosthetic tooth. The implant and abutment are made of titanium, which bonds to the bone as it heals. The prosthetic tooth is made from porcelain or a form of plastic called a resin composite. The prosthodontist places the implant into the jawbone under local anesthetic; after the healing is complete, the abutment and prosthetic tooth are attached. Dental implants require essentially the same care as natural teeth and are very long-lasting.Effects of Tooth Loss
A missing tooth affects the appearance and the ability to chew, and can increase the risk of gum disease. One of the most serious problems related to missing teeth, however, has to do with bone loss. Bone must be stimulated to maintain its form and density. In the legs, this stimulation comes in the form of weight-bearing exercise like walking or running. In the jaw, the bone is stimulated by chewing. Throughout the day, teeth make contact with each other as you talk, swallow and chew. Even small pressure is transmitted to the ligament that suspends each tooth, prompting the bone to rebuild.
A Losing Proposition
Within the first year after a tooth is lost, the bone in that area decreases in width by as much as 25 percent and loses approximately four millimetres in height within the next few years. With multiple lost teeth, basal bone (the bone at the next level down) literally begins to melt away. The lower third of the face partially collapses, the cheeks become hollow and the front teeth are pushed forward. Lips begin to sag, and the risk of jawbone fractures increases.
A Problem With a Solution
While dentures may seem a quick and easy solution to missing teeth, they not only don’t solve lost bone problems – they make the problem worse, especially if they don’t fit properly. Fixed bridges, which are attached to teeth on either side of the gap, can increase the risk of tooth loss in the adjacent teeth unless they are perfectly maintained. Dental implants, however, resolve all these issues. They are aesthetically pleasing, can be matched to the appearance of remaining teeth and need the same care as natural teeth. Most importantly, they stimulate the bone just as natural teeth do.
The health of your jaw – and in many respects, your overall health – depends on your oral health and ability to chew properly. A prosthodontist can assess the situation and recommend treatment options. Dental implants can truly make a difference. If you would like to learn more, visit Prosthodontic Associates for additional resources.