Today we’re going to talk about tooth loss and what you need to know about dental implants.
Tooth loss is surprisingly common — some studies estimate as many as 178 million Americans are missing at least one adult tooth. While decay is the most common cause of lost teeth, gum disease, accidents, injuries, the natural aging process, and even your own genetics can cause you to lose one or more teeth.
There’s good news and bad news when it comes to lost teeth. The bad news is that when a tooth is lost, it sets off a domino effect of dental health problems:
- Neighboring teeth are at higher risk of decay and gum disease as they shift and begin to fill the empty space left behind.
- Headaches, TMJ, and jaw pain may increase due to a misaligned bite.
- Without a tooth’s root to create structure and support, the underlying jaw bone will begin to erode and dissolve, a process known as resorption. This process is irreversible and often leads to a “sunken” facial appearance.
But here’s the good news:
Thanks to modern dental implant technology, tooth loss can be fixed — permanently.
The answer? Dental implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are a true replacement for missing teeth — they restore both the cosmetic appearance and function of a natural tooth. Here’s how they work:
- The implant itself is placed into the jaw bone, acting like the “root” of a natural tooth. It not only prevents further bone loss but actually strengthens the bone.
- An abutment is attached to the implant to make a solid and stable foundation for the final restoration
- A prosthetic (usually a crown, bridge, or denture) is attached to the abutment. It’s custom-made and designed to look and function just like your natural tooth (or teeth).
Implants compared to other restorations
Until relatively recently, implants were not the most common solution to fix missing or damaged teeth. In the past (and even today), there are other options:
When a tooth is damaged by decay (or injury) but not structurally compromised, a filling is the most common solution. Fillings are great for fixing small problems but do have their drawbacks. For example, no filling is permanent. Eventually it will have to be replaced. Larger fillings tend to be less stable and durable than smaller fillings and do nothing to protect the integrity of the remaining tooth structure.
Most often used as a restoration following a root canal procedure, a crown is like a protective “cap” for your tooth. Compared to a filling, a crown covers all of the remaining tooth structure and is designed to restore your tooth’s color, shape, and size. While more durable than fillings, crowns are not a truly permanent solution. Over time, decay or other issues may necessitate the extraction of the remaining tooth.
For decades, adhesive dentures were the most common tooth restoration, especially in cases where multiple teeth were lost or damaged. Unfortunately, traditional adhesive dentures have significant drawbacks:
- They require messy and sticky adhesives
- They can affect speech
- Chewing and eating certain foods can become difficult or impossible
- Dentures do not always provide the best cosmetic results
- They do nothing to protect your jaw bone and bone loss is still likely to occur
The implant procedure: what to expect
Unlike a filling, a dental implant procedure is a bit more involved. But the benefits and the results are worth it!
Depending on a number of factors, including when the tooth was lost and the condition of your jaw bone, your dentist may recommend a bone graft as a first step in the process. This bone graft strengthens your jaw and provides a better foundation for the implant itself. After the bone graft has healed, you’ll be ready for your implant.
Dr. Catt uses high-tech 3D imaging technology to plan your implant procedure and assess the quality of the bone structure in your jaw. Unlike traditional x-rays, 3D imaging produces high-definition crystal clear images.
During the implant procedure, Dr. Catt will precisely place the implant in your jaw. After it’s allowed time to heal, you’ll be ready for the final restoration. Depending on your needs, Dr. Catt may recommend a crown, bridge, or implant-supported denture.
Answers to common questions about implants
How do I care for my implant?
Your implant and restoration can be brushed and flossed just like a natural tooth. It’s very important to keep up a good home care routine and see your dentist regularly. Peri-implantitis is a common form of gum disease that forms near implants. Your dentist can monitor the health of your implant and nearby gum tissue and help you treat gum disease, should it occur.
How long will an implant last?
With proper care, your implant can last forever. However, the restoration itself, be it a crown, denture, or bridge, may need to be replaced in the future. Just like natural teeth, these restorations may become chipped, cracked, or damaged. Often this is the result of tooth grinding or from biting too hard on a bit of food.
How do you make my crown, denture, or bridge?
Dr. Catt will take precise measurements and images of your mouth. A dental lab will carefully craft the restoration and make it look just like a natural tooth! Then in your final appointment, Dr. Catt will place the restoration on the implant’s abutment, making sure that it fits perfectly.
What are All-on-4 implants?
All-on-4 is style of implant popularized by Nobel Biocare, a maker of dental implants. Basically, the idea is that with as few as 4 implants, a dentist can create a restoration for all of the teeth in the upper or lower jaw. If you’re missing multiple teeth, ask Dr. Catt about whether an All-on-4 style solution is right for you.
Meet Dr. Catt
Dr. Catt is one of the most-experienced and most-credentialed implant dentists in the state of Oregon. He’s certified by the American Society of Implant & Reconstructive Dentistry (ASIRD) and is a member of the Academy of Osseointegration. Beyond his experience and education, Dr. Catt is known for his friendly approach and ability to help patients feel comfortable.
If you’d like to schedule an implant consultation with Dr. Catt, contact us online or call (541) 772-8846 today.