Dental Implants: Why They're the Gold Standard for Replacing Missing Teeth

The adult mouth contains 32 teeth, including the four third molars, referred to as “wisdom teeth.” However, most people don’t hang on to all those teeth as they get older. By the time they reach 50, the average American is missing 12 teeth, lost to injury, decay, or gum disease. Losing teeth has repercussions beyond your smile. The gaps left alter your bite, weaken your jawbone, and jeopardize your overall health — bacteria from gum pockets or an infection can travel to the rest of your body, causing disease.

At her dental office in Saratoga, California, Dr. Kiran Rapal and her team provide a wide variety of dental services. They’re pleased to offer dental implants for their patients who have lost one, two, or many teeth, as they believe implants offer the most permanent, healthy, and natural-feeling option. Here’s what they want you to know about implants and how they’re superior to other tooth-replacement treatments.

The problems with missing teeth

Research shows your risk for poor oral health increases with each additional missing tooth. Specific risks include:

Tooth replacement options

Depending on how many teeth you’ve lost, there are a number of replacement options.

Bridges

If you’re missing one or two teeth, a bridge might be a good option. The process involves suspending a false tooth or teeth between two healthy teeth or crowns on either side of the gap,  and cementing them in. The new teeth, made of porcelain or resin, are color-matched to your surrounding teeth.

Dentures

Bridges involve grinding the stable crown down a bit in order to place the cement. Partial dentures don’t require this. The artificial teeth are bonded to a metal structure that slides in and out of your mouth for easy cleaning. Even when anchored with a clasp, though, they can slip around when you eat or talk and chafe the gums.

Full dentures replace an entire arch (or both arches) of teeth and sit on top of the gums where the teeth once were. The resin teeth are attached to acrylic "gums," and, like partial dentures, they slide in and out for cleaning. And, also like partial dentures, they can slip around in your mouth when you talk or chew, even if you use a dental adhesive. This makes them a bit embarrassing and uncomfortable for many people.

Dentures last an average of 7-15 years, after which you’ll need to have them replaced. The initial cost for dentures is far less than for dental implants, but since they have to be replaced so frequently, they may cost more in the long run.

Dental implants

Dental implants are also artificial teeth, but they’re permanently placed in the jaw and the closest option you can get to how a natural tooth feels, looks, and functions. Because they contain a root fused to the bone, which supports a chewing surface on the crown that rests above it, they actually help stimulate bone growth — the only restoration option that does so, according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry.

The implants use a titanium screw, which an oral surgeon embeds in your jawbone, as an artificial tooth. You have to allow about 6-8 months for the screw to fully fuse with the bone. At that point, Dr. Rapal attaches a connector known as an abutment, which serves as the base to support a dental crown that looks and acts like your natural tooth. Dr. Rapal matches the color of the crown to the surrounding teeth so it blends in perfectly.

Dental implants are a good choice for one or a few missing teeth, and new technologies allow for even a whole arch of teeth to be implanted at one time.Though they’re more costly than either type of denture, they’re permanent. And as long as you brush, floss, and go for dental checkups regularly, the implants should last you a lifetime.

If you’d like to know if you’re a good candidate for dental implants, give Dr. Rapal’s office a call at 408-864-7010, or schedule your consultation online. Your healthy smile will love you for it.

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