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You might have heard your parents or aging relatives talk about dental implants, and while tooth loss seems limited to the graying population, it can happen to anyone. Whether it's from a boating accident, a car accident or disease, it's far more common than many think to lose an adult tooth or two.
If you find yourself facing the option of an implant, you're in good company. According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, 3 million people in the U.S. have implants, and that number is on the rise.
While it might seem intimidating to have an implant placed, rest assured that it's a perfectly reasonable solution to trauma or disease. Read these common questions to learn more about implants and why they can be worth it for people who have lost permanent teeth.
What are dental implants?
But what are dental implants, exactly? The American Dental Association offers a basic definition found in its patient education files: “Implants are posts that are surgically placed in the upper or lower jaw, where they function as a sturdy anchor for replacement teeth. They are made of titanium and other materials easily accepted by the human body.”
The American Academy of Implant Dentistry lists four types of implants: to replace a single tooth, several teeth in a row or multiple teeth around existing ones, or to support a full set of dentures. It’s this last type of implant that should especially be highlighted for people considering dentures, since a full denture implant (commonly referred to as an All-on-4® implant) can provide many benefits that traditional dentures cannot.
How do they compare with dentures?
For decades, dentures have provided a way for people to eat, talk and look like they have natural teeth when they may only have one or two original teeth left. Yet dentures can often cause discomfort to many who wear them. A denture sits in the mouth similar to a retainer, with nothing holding it securely in place. So although dentures might be a good short-term solution for some, they come with some serious disadvantages.
Denture fragility and movement restrict certain foods from your diet. In addition, slipping dentures make it difficult to speak clearly. Overall, dentures aren’t as durable as implants, since they require more maintenance and replacement. Although more costly, implants provide a solution that is more secure, durable, comfortable and natural in appearance.
How do implants and All-on-4® work?
The All-on-4® technique is in some ways a combination of dentures and implants since it uses a fixed denture that is then supported with four specially placed implants. Based on the angled placement of each implant, the available bone can then hold the denture securely and over a longer period than any traditional denture.
The specific steps of placing All-on-4® can be found on the American Academy of Periodontology website, but a quick summary includes the following:
- A consultation is conducted and X-rays are taken. Gum and bone health is assessed.
- Four implants are surgically placed at specific angles into the jawbone.
- Restoration teeth (a full bridge or denture) are then securely attached to the implants.
Some providers of this procedure require multiple visits, while others may be able to place the implants and attach the restorations during the same procedure. It’s important to consult a certified and experienced dentist for this type of implant.
Although it's a specialized technique, the added cost is more than worth the trouble. If you’re going to spend money on restorative dental work, you want to choose a procedure that will last but doesn’t take forever to have done, which is why All-on-4® is the perfect solution for many patients.
Who can get implants?
Just like any procedure, implants and the All-on-4® specifically shouldn’t be the only option you consider. For example, patients with a history of infection or chronic illnesses such as diabetes or leukemia should not get implants. Tobacco users also may have trouble healing from the implant process and should consider other options. But if you feel comfortable with the procedure and your dentist thinks you are a good candidate, implants are an investment worth pursuing for beautiful and functional teeth.
To qualify for All-on-4® implants, you must be missing all of your teeth in a dental arch on the top or bottom, or have multiple teeth with issues and high pain levels. Other instances of missing one or two teeth with remaining healthy ones are more suited for individual implants or small bridges.
What benefits come from dental implants?
Dental implants correct several problems (and the chance of future dental issues) at the same time, which is part of what makes them so useful. The need for replacement teeth when teeth are lost or damaged is threefold:
1. To prevent further damage or decay caused by exposed gums
2. To prevent an improper bite adjustment caused by missing teeth that could be painful and even cause surrounding tooth damage and decay
3. To allow the patient to regain (in a fairly short time) full function of their teeth for speaking, chewing and smiling
With the ability to solve all these problems permanently, dental implants are the way to go. To find out if dental implants and the All-on-4® method are right for you, contact Stubbs Dental to set up a consultation today.