While maintaining natural teeth throughout life should always be the goal, it isn't always possible. Accidents happen that can damage or dislodge teeth, and cavities, gum disease, and other health issues and conditions can result in tooth loss at any age. Because teeth are needed for both chewing and physically supporting the facial bones and muscles, replacing damaged or missing teeth is important.
In the past, people turned to full or partial dentures and bridgework to continue to facilitate chewing and to provide the needed support for their facial structure. Increasingly, however, many are steering away from dentures and are embracing the more permanent solution of dental implants. If you have encountered a dental health situation that will result in the removal of some or all of your natural teeth, you may be wondering whether dental implants are right for you. Asking yourself the following five questions will help you make the right decision.
Are dental implants an option for everyone?
While most healthy patients are good candidates for dental implants, there are some health conditions that lessen the possibility of success. These include:
- having untreated gum disease
- having insufficient amounts of healthy jaw bone, due to osteoporosis or other health issues
- suffering from some diseases or conditions, such as diabetes or autoimmune disorders
In addition, personal habits such as smoking or poor oral hygiene can also increase the risk of dental implant failures. While these conditions do not always prevent you from getting a dental implant, they can make the process more complicated.
Is the dental implant procedure painful?
A common concern among those who are just beginning to consider dental implants is the level of pain and discomfort they should expect to experience during and after the procedure itself. Like any invasive dental procedure, patients can expect to be kept comfortable during the procedure with sedatives or anesthesia. Patients should always discuss their concerns and preferences regarding pain control with their dental care provider well before the procedure takes place.
During the recovery period, some inflammation and pain is normal, but it should be easily controllable with common over-the-counter (OTC) products, like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Patients who experience severe pain or discomfort during the healing process may be developing an infection and will need to immediately contact their dental care provider.
How many surgeries are needed to complete the process?
Improvements in the surgical procedures and materials used for the implant itself have made it possible for most dental implant procedures to require just one surgery. A small number of patients may require a bone graft before the procedure to implant the post into the bone due to lower bone density or another complicating issue.
What type of routine daily care is needed to keep a dental implant strong and healthy?
Once your dental implant has healed, a good oral health routine that includes careful brushing and flossing is generally all that is needed. Some dentists recommend using dental tape instead of regular floss and incorporating the use of water irrigation into your daily routine. In addition to a good daily oral care routine, patients who have dental implants will also need to continue periodic dental checkups, as directed by their dentist.
What type of lifespan should be expected from a dental implant?
Healthy patients who undergo dental implant procedures performed by qualified dental care providers using quality implants should expect a lifetime of use, as long as good oral health regimens are followed.
Opting for dental implants is an excellent way to enjoy good oral health without the need for dentures, bridgework, or other dental appliances. If you are considering a dental implant procedure, talking with your dental care provider should always be the first step. In addition to assessing your overall oral health and making recommendations for any improvements in your routine, your dental care provider can refer you to a reputable dental implant service provider in your area.