An estimated 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. If you’re one of them, you’ve no doubt noticed how a gap in your smile can affect everything from your ability to chew certain foods to your self-esteem.
Dental implants may be your ideal solution. They look, feel, and function like natural teeth and unlike bridges, often don’t require additional dental work to be done on surrounding teeth.
But are you a good candidate for them? If you’ve been asking yourself, “Should I get dental implants?” read on to learn about their benefits and if they may be right for you.
What is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is an artificial tooth that replaces a natural one that’s been lost to decay, gum disease, or trauma. Dental implants can be used to replace one tooth, several teeth, or even all teeth. There are three general types of dental implants:
Endosteal Implant—this is the most common type of dental implant and is used to replace a single tooth. It consists of a titanium post that is attached to the jawbone and a crown portion of the tooth that is visible above the gumline.
Implant-Supported Bridge—this implant solution can be used to replace multiple missing teeth in a row. It resembles a row of natural teeth but only two of them have posts that allow them to be implanted into the jawbone.
Implant-Retain Denture—this implant is used to replace all of the teeth on the upper or bottom jaw. Four posts are implanted into the jawbone and then a full denture is affixed to the posts. It can be a great solution for people who need dentures but don’t want to deal with slippage or affixing them to the gums with a denture paste product.
No matter which one you receive, you’ll have the post implanted first during the procedure. Then after a few months, once the jawbone had built up around the post, your dentist will have you fitted for a crown. Your dentist or oral surgeon can recommend which implant type is best for you based on your individual dental situation.
Who Makes a Good Dental Implant Candidate?
Most people who have a healthy smile and good overall health usually qualify for dental implant surgery. However, you may have an additional edge if any of the following apply to you:
You Have Enough Jawbone Volume
Dental implants require enough jawbone to support the post portion and to keep them fixated in your mouth. Your dentist will be able to tell if you have enough jawbone for a dental implant. Usually, people who don’t have gum disease or other oral conditions that can affect jawbone volume should be able to receive an implant.
But even if your jawbone has shrunk, you may still be a dental implant candidate if you receive bone grafting surgery. This is when a piece of the jawbone is taken from another part of the mouth and placed in the area that needs more density so it can help regenerate the bone. Your dentist can determine if you’re a candidate for a bone graft.
You Don’t Have Gum Disease
Periodontitis, or advanced gum disease, can eventually damage your jawbone to the point it shrinks. A dental implant needs not only enough jawbone density, but healthy gums to stay in place.
Again, your dentist will let you know if you qualify for gum grafting surgery that can help build up the gums for dental implant surgery.
You’re a Non-Smoker
Smoking can affect blood flow and circulation to the point that it takes longer for the body to heal following any kind of surgery, including dental procedures. This means it may take longer for the jawbone to build up around your dental implant post and longer in general for the gums and area to heal.
Your dentist may instruct you to stop smoking a few months before your scheduled dental implant surgery so it has a better chance of success.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Additionally, dental implants may be right for you if any of the benefits they deliver resonate with you. Here are the major advantages of getting dental implants.
They Look and Feel Like Natural Teeth
Dental implants are indistinguishable from natural teeth because they not only look like real teeth, but the implant portion of the tooth resides beneath the gumline. When you smile, no one will be able to tell you’ve had dental implant surgery unless you tell them.
Your dentist will carefully match the crown part of the implant to the rest of your teeth so that the shade blends in with your natural teeth’s appearance. They will also make an impression of the area of the mouth receiving the implant so the crown’s size and shape fit perfectly with the surrounding teeth.
When you run your tongue over your dental implant, you’ll also notice that it feels like a real tooth. The crown portion of the implant is usually made of a smooth ceramic material.
They Function Like Natural Teeth
Imagine being able to eat steak, popcorn, nuts, and other foods because you’re not missing a tooth or teeth. Dental implants allow you to chew and enjoy your favorite foods again. Just like natural teeth, they can support many pounds of pressure in your mouth.
They Prevent Other Teeth From Shifting
When a tooth is missing, surrounding teeth can shift and drift out of place because their additional support is gone. This can lead to problems eating and speaking, and may even require dental work.
Having a tooth replaced with an implant instantly provides the support that surrounding teeth need to stay upright and in place.
They Improve Your Self-Esteem
It can be embarrassing to smile or even speak when you’re missing teeth. Many people with a gap in their teeth may cover their mouth when they laugh or avoid laughing altogether.
Dental implants can restore self-esteem and confidence in all areas of your life, from job interviews to going out on dates. And because they look like natural teeth, no one will be able to tell you’ve had an implant.
Still Asking Yourself “Should I Get Dental Implants?” The Answer is Yes!
If you’re still asking yourself, “Should I get dental implants?” the answer is yes. The truth is no other missing tooth solution offers quite the same benefits that dental implants do. They’re just like having your real teeth back.
For more tips on keeping your smile healthy, read our latest Dental Health posts.