As soon as a tooth is removed from your jaw, the jawbone beneath it starts to deteriorate. This can have a lasting impact on your oral health, the appearance of your smile, and your tooth replacement options in the future.
If you’ve recently had a tooth removed or are scheduled for an extraction, the best time to consider having a missing tooth replaced with an implant is right now. Only a dental implant can stop the bone loss that occurs post-extraction. The sooner you have it inserted, the better.
Here’s a closer look at the implant process and why promptly replacing your missing tooth with an implant really is the best thing you can do for your smile.
Why Is It Important to Act Quickly?
Each of your teeth have roots that anchor them into the jawbone. Whenever you chew or clench your teeth, the motion stimulates the jawbone, and when the tooth and roots are removed, the bone tissue begins to die and recede. Loss of jawbone structure due to tooth loss can cause a number of problems, including:
- A change in appearance as your facial tissues sink inward where bone is missing
- Damage to the neighboring teeth as the bone beneath them begins to erode
- Difficulty wearing dentures later in life
When an implant is inserted in place of the missing tooth, it stimulates the jawbone just as a natural tooth would. This prevents loss of bone structure.
A dental implant is essentially a titanium screw that is inserted into the jawbone. Over time, the bone integrates with the metal, making the implant stable. If you wait too long to have an implant inserted after a tooth extraction, your jawbone may not be strong enough to support it.
Some patients can still receive an implant after undergoing bone grafting procedures, but this is a lengthy process that’s better avoided by having your tooth replaced promptly.
What Makes an Implant a Better Choice Than a Bridge?
Several decades ago, before dental implant procedures were common, dentists often recommended that patients replace missing teeth with dental bridges. A bridge is essentially a false tooth that anchors to each of the neighboring teeth. It replaces the visible crown portion of the tooth, but not the roots.
Though they do improve the look of the smile and provide a chewing surface, dental bridges do not stimulate the jawbone and prevent bone loss like implants do. Implants also offer a number of other benefits over bridges.
Implants Protect the Neighboring Teeth
Since bridges are anchored to the teeth on either side of the empty socket, they put a considerable amount of strain on these teeth and can lead to decay. Implants protect the neighboring teeth by preventing their roots from shifting.
Implants Look Completely Natural
Most bridges are somewhat obvious if you look at them closely, but a dental bridge looks exactly like a natural tooth once your mouth has healed.
Implants Are Easy to Care For
With a dental bridge, you always have to worry about bacteria and food particles getting caught between the bridge and gums. This is not an issue with implants since they’re anchored into the jaw like a natural tooth. The only required care is to brush and floss around the implant as you would a natural tooth.
What Does Dental Implant Surgery Involve?
Some patients fear having implants inserted because it is a surgical procedure. However, it is a very safe procedure that has been perfected over the decades and has a success rate of up to 98%. Your dentist will use sedation and anesthesia to make sure you’re comfortable during the surgery. Practicing good oral hygiene and avoiding smoking after your implant surgery will minimize the risk of infections and side effects.
Generally, implants are inserted in a three-stage process.
Stage 1: Inserting the Implant
This is the most involved procedure of the three and is typically performed under sedation and local anesthesia. Your dentist inserts the titanium post into your jawbone and sutures your gum tissue closed. Over the next six months or so, the implant is left alone so your jawbone can integrate with it and create a stable base.
Stage 2: Attaching the Abutment
During this quick procedure, your dentist re-opens the gums and attaches a piece called an abutment to the implanted post. The abutment is what will attach your crown (the visible portion of the tooth) to the implant. Your gums are stitched around the abutment and left to heal for another week or two.
Stage 3: Placing the Crown
Once your gums are sufficiently healed, the crown, which looks just like a natural tooth, is attached to the abutment. Your dentist will carefully select the color of your crown so it matches your other teeth.
Don’t compromise the health of your remaining teeth by failing to replace the one that’s missing. Having a dental implant inserted takes time, but it’s worth it in the end. Schedule a consultation with a local dentist to learn more about the implant process.