Missing teeth are more than a cosmetic problem. They can cause serious dental issues down the line. However, dental implants are a great way to save your smile and prevent uncomfortable and expensive dental problems.
What are dental implants?
You can think of dental implants as artificial tooth roots. Unlike dental bridges or dentures, dental implants are actually rooted in the jawbone. For reasons that will be discussed in the next section, this makes them an excellent solution for anyone who is missing teeth since they minimize or prevent several dental issues from forming.
The dental implant procedure is pretty simple. Implants are inserted in the jawbone and begin to bond with it, creating a stable base. This base supports crowns, which are artificial teeth that are tailored to your exact needs. Each crown is then connected to the implant.
Types of dental implants
Conventional dental implants
These implants are 4-5 mm in diameter, and their large size makes them excellent replacements for big teeth, such as molars. These implants involve deeper drilling than their mini counterparts.
Mini dental implants
At 2.5 mm in diameter, mini dental implants are smaller than conventional ones. This makes them useful replacements for smaller teeth, such as front teeth. The mini dental implant does not require drilling as deeply, and it can be used with implant-secured dentures.
As you will see in the next section, dental implants are valuable in terms of everyday convenience and preventing long-term risks and health problems that can occur among people with missing teeth.
What is so dangerous about missing teeth?
Teeth are lost for several reasons. In some cases, they are fractured or damaged and need to be extracted. Other times, irreparable decay may cause them to fall out or require removal. In either case, you are left with an open space that needs to be filled to avoid future dental problems.
Here are three major health problems that missing teeth can cause:
- The teeth immediately next to your missing tooth (or missing teeth) may begin to shift and tilt into the newly open area. As those teeth shift, so do their neighbors, which can cause a chain reaction of increased instability that may eventually lead to a misaligned bite. This can cause a host of other adverse health outcomes.
- The teeth directly above or below the space where the tooth has been lost may also undergo an uncomfortable change. These teeth may grow in an attempt to make contact with the lost tooth. After sufficient growth, the tooth may cause a sore spot on the gumline of the missing tooth and become increasingly uncomfortable.
- Missing teeth can also cause your jawbone to shrink. This is a process known as resorption, which occurs when a missing tooth leads to a lack of stimulation at the jawbone. Although some dental techniques can be used to ease this problem, it is difficult to fully restore the gum and bone architecture which existed when the tooth was not missing, so it is important to promptly get implants.
As you can imagine, these dental problems are more than just uncomfortable to live with. They are also expensive to treat and are likely to become more and more burdensome the longer you go without treatment. These complications are preventable if the right steps are taken.
How dental implants can help
Before dental implants were more widely available, the fixed bridge was a common dental procedure. This involves shaving down the teeth next to the space left by a missing tooth (or teeth) and placing a bridge between them. Because an object fills that space, some of the dental problems we discussed earlier are resolved but not all of them.
Although the bridge helps with the usual tooth shifting that occurs with missing teeth, resorption cannot prevent jawline thinning, because chewing forces are simply distributed to the bone under neighboring teeth rather than the bone under the missing tooth.
Getting the right types of dental implants, however, can improve these problems, especially if the implant is received shortly after teeth are lost, or before they are lost in cases where removal is recommended. Much like the bridge, the implants fill up the space with authentic-looking teeth, which means you do not have to worry about teeth shifting. This also means that the teeth opposing the missing teeth will not grow into the gumline. The implants put sufficient pressure on opposing teeth to keep them in the right place and keep the bite aligned.
However, unlike the bridge, the implant is actually drilled into the jawbone. That means the chewing force on the jawbone that is achieved as normal teeth chew can be replicated by the implants, letting you avoid further discomfort and larger dental problems stemming from resorption.
Better yet, dental implants have plenty of other benefits. Because the crowns are artificial and lack biological material, they cannot get cavities. That means going through drilling and filling procedures will not be necessary for those teeth, and if you are great at caring for dental implants, they can last a lifetime!
If you are looking for the right dentist in Arkansas, you can trust our team at Arkansas Family Dental. For more information, contact us today at (501) 683-8886 to schedule an appointment.