The loss of teeth can be as a result of a variety of different reasons – genetics, poor oral hygiene, age, injury or other factors. This loss does not just result in self-confidence and other emotional issues but can also cause pain, discomfort and difficulty masticating or chewing food.
Even more disconcerting is that the loss of teeth can result in other major problems like the misalignment of teeth as well as the deterioration of bone matter in the jaw and face. Scientists have been looking for a way to grow new teeth for years but it looks like there will still be a long wait until a successful means to achieve this is found.
In the meantime, there are many different cosmetic dentistry options available to replace missing teeth in the mouth. The most effective means for replacing multiple missing teeth in the past has been to provide dentures. However, two newer and better options have become available in the past few years – dental implants and implant supported dentures.
1. Dental Implants
Dental implants use a surgical method to replace missing teeth. It consists of titanium posts that are placed directly into the jaw bone. Artificial replacement teeth or bridges are then mounted onto these posts. This is a lengthy process and requires healing time as well as temporary teeth being provided and like all types of surgery does carry certain risks.
However, the benefits of dental implants often far outweigh the risks or disadvantages of having the surgery. The main reason that patients opt for the surgery is that it is a permanent solution that provides teeth that look and feel more natural. Patients who have undergone the surgery don’t have the problems that are often associated with having dentures like difficulty biting and chewing.
For dentists, the main benefit of dental implants is that it prevents the deterioration of bone. The jaw bone is designed to support the teeth in the mouth. When teeth are missing, this function is no longer necessary and the bone begins to degrade. As implants are placed directly into the jawbone, it artificially recreates the supportive function preventing the bone from deteriorating after tooth loss.
Dental implants are suitable for replacing just one or multiple missing teeth in the mouth. They are a great alternative to traditional bridgework and other dental replacement methods. However, not every person is a good candidate for dental implants.
In cases where bone deterioration has already taken place, placing the posts into the bone can be problematic and dental implants are not recommended. It is also not the ideal solution for smokers or those who have poor lifestyle habits. It is essential to employ optimal oral hygiene practices after undergoing dental implant surgery.
Fortunately for those who are not candidates for the surgery, there are other options available.
2. Implant Dentures
These solutions are actually referred to as implant supported dentures as they use existing teeth in the mouth or dental implants (as described above) to support them. In the past, providing a set of dentures to a patient meant removing all the teeth along the top and/or bottom gum line in order to provide a place for the dentures to sit directly on the gums.
Newer advances in dentures allow for partial dentures to be placed in the mouth, supported by the other teeth rather than just the gums. These dentures appear more natural than conventional dentures and are easier to maintain.
Partial dentures are preferable to removing all the teeth on a gum line, once again, to help prevent bone deterioration. A dentist will only remove or pull a tooth as a last resort and would rather use other tooth replacement techniques at his disposal to maintain the integrity of the jaw bone as well as the remaining teeth in the mouth.
The process is simple and healing time minimal unless teeth need to be surgically removed before implant dentures can be provided. An impression is made of the gums as well as remaining teeth and sent to a lab where a unique set of dentures is then created. A dentist will then set the dentures in place by making small adjustments to ensure that they sit comfortably but firmly in the mouth. Temporary dentures may be provided while waiting for the permanent set to be manufactured.
Implant dentures are a great alternative to bridges and other types of cosmetic dentistry options for replacement teeth. They are also a great interim measure for those who are waiting for dental implant surgery.
Every dental patient is unique and it is important to consult with your dentist to discuss the different techniques available for replacement teeth in order to find the most suitable solution to meet your unique requirements.