Few things can present as many practical and aesthetic issues as missing teeth do. If you're worried about gaps in your smile, dental implants are one solution worth considering. Before you decide whether to go with them, though, it's wise to learn some of the basics about implants.
What Are They?
The implant part of the equation refers to a post that's implanted into the supporting bone. Underneath all your teeth is a layer of tissue that includes bones, nerves, and blood vessels that support them while they're present. Unless a lot of the material had to be removed for a compelling reason, such as oral cancer, there should be enough bone left behind to support a post made of a medical-grade metal like titanium.
Each post has holes in it that will encourage the bone to grow into and around the implant. This will provide a sturdy base that can hold up to normal chewing.
A dental appliance is then attached to the end of the post that remains exposed above the gumline. This is made of similar material to what is used for dental bridges, and it serves as a replacement tooth.
Are You a Good Candidate?
Stable oral health is essential before installing dental implants. Your dentist and hygienist will assess the condition of your mouth, paying close attention to how healthy your gums are and whether the underlying bone where a tooth was removed is holding up. The bone will atrophy without a tooth present above it, but this occurs at different rates for different people. If you have enough bone and your oral health is well-controlled, there's a good chance you'll be able to get implanted teeth.
One of the most appealing aspects of implants is how versatile they are. If you're just missing one tooth, a post can be inserted and an appliance placed on top of it.
Folks who have lost all their top or bottom teeth can get what is called all-in-four implants. This process involves placing four posts in either the upper or lower part of the mouth. Two arches of artificial teeth are then mounted to these posts.
Dental implants can also be used in conjunction with bridges. For example, if you lost all your molars but still have your premolars, one premolar could be used as an anchor. At the opposite end, a post will be implanted to support the other end of the bridge.