You might be surprised to learn that missing a tooth is more common than you think. Studies show more than 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth, while 40 million Americans are missing all of their teeth!
Luckily, there’s a permanent and natural-looking solution to tooth loss: dental implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants look and feel just like natural teeth and are attached directly to the jawbone. Here’s how dental implants work:
1. The dental implant is placed into your bone. You can think of an implant like an artificial root for the tooth. The implant bonds with the jaw bone, providing a stable foundation for your restoration.
2. A connecting element, called an abutment, is placed on top of the implant. This abutment will help stabilize and support the restoration.
3. A restoration (often a custom crown) is attached to the implant. The restoration will look and feel just like your teeth.
In the past, dentures or partial dentures have been the go-to restoration for missing teeth. However, since their invention in the mid-60’s, dental implants have grown in popularity thanks to their natural look and function. If cared for properly, dental implants are permanent.
Is it really that bad to have missing teeth?
You might be wondering if missing a tooth is really that problematic. It seems like a small thing, but a missing tooth opens the door to a variety of other issues. A missing tooth not only impacts your mouth, but your overall health, too.
Impact of missing teeth on your dental health
A missing tooth invites more bacteria to hang out in the empty space as well as around neighboring teeth. It also damages your jaw bone, a process known as resorption. A missing tooth can lead to a variety of problems:
- Increased risk of tooth decay and gum disease
- Teeth shifting
- Increased chance of developing TMJ and chronic headaches
- Difficulty eating and speaking
Impact of missing teeth on your overall health
Your oral health is closely tied to your overall health. Because missing teeth tend to cause problems for your oral health, it makes sense they could affect your overall health, too.
Research has shown there are a number of health problems linked to missing teeth and poor oral hygiene, including:
- Digestive problems. When you are missing teeth, you will automatically adjust your bite and likely not be able to chew food as well before swallowing.
- Increased risk of conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s, and a weakened immune system.
Do dental implants hurt?
The experience of getting dental implants will be different for everyone. Thanks to high-tech advancements in dentistry, most patients report feeling only slight discomfort during and after their dental implant treatment.
Most everyone is able to resume daily activities within 24 hours, and return to their normal diet within 1-6 weeks.
Dental implants vs. dentures
Chances are, if you have missing teeth, you’ve considered full or partial dentures. For years, removable dentures were the only option for replacing missing teeth. However, traditional dentures come with a few downsides:
- Difficult to clean and maintain
- Require sticky adhesives
- Can slip or slide out of place
- May lead to difficulty speaking or eating certain foods
- Can lead to the appearance of a “sunken” face, because they do not prevent jaw bone loss
7 benefits of dental implants
1. Promotes gum health and oral health
When your tooth is missing, the empty gum tissue is at a greater risk of harboring bacteria. Due to this increased bacteria, the gums around your neighboring teeth may become infected and start to recede as well.
2. Helps align neighboring teeth
When there’s a gap between the teeth, the adjacent teeth will shift to try to fill that gap. Shifting teeth can often end in misalignment, leading to problems with your bite and your ability to chew certain foods. Dental implants fill the gap and keep teeth from shifting or misaligning.
3. Good for your jaw bone
The roots in your teeth provide important structure and support to the jawbone, stimulating growth and bone density. When you’re missing a tooth, your jaw actually loses bone mass, which can change the shape of your face, giving it a sunken look. A dental implant is the only treatment for missing teeth that provides the same structure and support for the jaw as your tooth’s roots.
4. Decreases TMJ pain and headaches
Dental implants help to realign your bite, support your jaw, and keep your teeth from shifting, effectively removing some of the main triggers of TMJ.
5. Restores eating and speaking naturally
Missing teeth and certain tooth replacement options, like traditional dentures, can make it difficult to pronounce some words and eat certain foods. Dental implants close that gap and provide stability to your bite, allowing you to speak naturally and enjoy your favorite foods without discomfort.
6. Easy to care for
Yes, you still need to brush and floss your implant to keep bacteria from building up on or around the tooth and affecting nearby teeth. But you won’t need any adhesives, cleansing tablets, or special floss to care for it like you would with other treatment options.
7. A permanent solution
Other tooth replacement options may require repair or replacement over time. But dental implants are designed to last for life!
What to expect from a dental implant procedure
First, Dr. Catt will use 3D imagery to evaluate the condition of the bone and create a customized treatment plan. 3D imagery allows for crystal clear images and more precise placement of the implant than traditional x-rays.
As Dr. Catt expertly places the implant, your comfort will be our top priority. Then, we’ll give you and the implant some time to health before we invite you back for the final appointment.
Once your implant has fully integrated with the jaw bone, it’s time to top it off with your new, natural-looking tooth. While a crown is the most common dental implant, Dr. Catt may recommend a bridge or overdenture, depending on the situation.
Dr. Catt can help!
If you’re missing teeth or considering dental implants, we can provide you with the expert care you need here in our Rogue Valley office.
Dr. Catt is certified by the American Society of Implant & Reconstructive Dentistry, and also a member of the Academy of Osseointegration. He’s known for his friendly and successful approach to dental implant treatments and looks forward to helping his patients achieve healthy, lasting smiles.