If you’re missing one or more teeth, you’re not alone. About 120 million people in the United States are missing at least one tooth. A missing tooth is more than just an embarrassment — tooth gaps can wreck the teeth you have and cause jaw and other problems.
Dr. Kenneth Higgins at IDTC Dental Center in Grand Prairie, Texas, wants you to understand why dental implants — which restore the function of your mouth just like natural teeth — are the gold standard for replacing missing teeth.
What causes teeth to fall out
There are many reasons teeth can fall out. Dental decay and gum disease are chief reasons for tooth loss. Also, injury and cancer can create this difficult dental issue for some people. Even everyday wear can cause tooth loss.
In the past, dentures and dental bridges were the only appliances that could fill the spaces left by missing teeth. Today, however, dental implants are your best option for having a permanent complete smile.
Dental implants explained
Think of a dental implant as a fully functioning and anatomically correct artificial tooth.
A dental implant consists of a titanium post implanted into your jaw. This post acts as a tooth root and serves as a foundation for a small connecting device — called an abutment — that attaches the artificial tooth to the implant. If you’re missing several teeth, a dental implant bridge can connect several artificial teeth to the implants.
Dental implants not only fix your visible smile. They prevent jawbone loss that changes in the structure of your face. Implants look, function, and feel like natural teeth.
Why implants are the best option
Dental implants can restore your beautiful smile and self-confidence. When you replace missing teeth with dental implants, nobody will know that all of your teeth aren’t original.
The prosthetic crown that sits above your gum, attached to the implanted root, is crafted to look identical to your surrounding natural teeth. The crown is firmly attached, so you don’t have to worry about slippage during eating or slurred speech, which sometimes can happen with dentures or bridges. With dental implants, you can eat what you want.
Implants also help protect your oral health. When you lose a tooth, the bone underneath can degrade over time. This erosion can weaken bonds with nearby teeth that tend to move to close a tooth gap, and those teeth eventually can loosen and fall out.
Implants are durable, convenient, and comfortable. With proper care like regular flossing and brushing, implants can last a lifetime.
Dental implant procedure
Dental implants are customized to look like your natural teeth. When you decide to have a dental implant, we take X-rays of your mouth to select the best placement location for your implant. We also determine jawbone strength. In some cases, you might need a bone graft to shore up weak jawbones before the implant procedure.
We place the implant into your jaw during outpatient surgery. It takes several months for the implant to fuse with your jawbone. Once it has, we attach an abutment and the custom-designed artificial tooth or teeth.