You’ve experienced receding gums, swelling inside your mouth, and one of your teeth fell out of its own volition. Beyond being annoying and uncomfortable, a missing tooth causes more trouble than just popcorn getting stuck in there. Without the tooth providing nutrients, the bone around the vacant area gradually shrinks in size and becomes weaker. To compensate, your body will steal calcium from your jaw to use somewhere else in a process called resorption.
Left unattended, resorption affects the ability to chew and speak properly, and rapidly gives your face a sunken look. You were losing target bone density so you did the smart thing and consulted with your dentist, who then smartly consulted with fellow oral surgeon experts. Everyone shared their thoughts, weighed pros and cons, and you ultimately decided to move forward with a dental implant procedure.
Dental Implants Explained
For readers unfamiliar with the term, dental implants are specially designed medical devices that substitute for missing teeth. They function as an artificial tooth root which supports various types of dental prosthesis such as dentures, crowns, or bridges.
Dental implants have three components; the fixture, abutment, and prosthesis (or crown):
The fixture, closely resembling a threaded bolt shaft, is embedded into the jawbone and fuses with it to act as an artificial tooth root. Material used in implant fixtures is typically highly pure titanium, or ceramic such as zirconia.
Special bone-regeneration material called hydroxyapatite is sometimes applied to the fixture’s surface to speed up the fusion process, which typically takes many months.
The implant abutment is a small “stud” extending above the gum line. The abutment, typically added after fusion is complete, supports the crown and secures it to the fixture. Similar to implant fixtures, abutments are made of metal, ceramic, or a hybrid material.
The prosthesis of an implant is the final dental work such as crowns, dentures, or bridges. Depending on its location and make-up, a prosthesis can be cemented, screwed, or clipped into place.
All told, ever-advancing technology has made today’s dental implants nearly 100 percent effective and specifically designed and manufactured with the strength to last a lifetime.
The Issue of Adequate Bone Tissue
Before an oral surgeon thinks twice about fitting you with dental implants, she will complete a thorough evaluation of your entire mouth to confirm the presence of adequate bone tissue.
Once an implant is placed, your body reacts to the titanium material by building bone around it in a fascinating process called osseointegration. This provides stimulation and strength to your jaw, stops resorption in its tracks, and restores your facial structure. However, without sufficient jawbone tissue to hold the titanium implants in place; the two components will not properly fuse.
If you don’t have adequate bone tissue, are you out of luck for dental implants? The short answer is no, but it involves additional surgery and significant increase in time. Doctors will recommend a jawbone graft which requires a complex procedure of introducing donor tissue and your own bone marrow to graft it all into place.
This amazing procedure (in an outpatient setting, no less) traditionally uses a sterilized cow bone to help prevent additional collapse around the jaw’s soft tissue. Tricked into believing the cow bone is its own, the body goes about rebuilding with natural bone.
To wrap it up, a thin membrane is stitched over the graft site before doctors close the incision. It takes six to nine months for bone tissue to graft but without adequate bone tissue at the outset, this is your best choice and it is well worth the wait to ensure successful implant surgery with drastically reduced chances of failure. A failed implant will become loose or fall out altogether and then you’re back where you started.
We all know that brushing every day, flossing, and regular dental visits should be an active part of our daily routine but consistent and thorough oral care goes beyond a bright white smile. Caring for your teeth and gums has a direct and positive impact on overall health and can actually add years to your life.
For more information on dental implants, bone rebuilding and options that best fit your scenario, call Glendale Periodontics today at (818) 465-9099.