Losing teeth is not uncommon. Only 48% of adults between 20 and 64 have all their teeth. Once your age hits 65 and above, nearly 1 in 5 people are missing all their original teeth. So, knowing your options for replacing lost teeth and what a dental implant procedure entails can help you maintain a healthy, happy smile through the decades.
People lose teeth for a variety of reasons, including genetic conditions, gum disease, injury or trauma, tooth decay and cavities, and health conditions, among others.
Replacing these missing teeth isn’t just important for your smile. A lost tooth (or teeth) can affect your bite and ability to chew, your nutrition, your self-esteem, and even lead to other health conditions.
Dental implants may be recommended for you if:
- You are missing one or more teeth
- Your jawbone is fully mature (i.e., you’re an adult)
- You have enough bone to securely hold the implant (which may involve bone grafts to strengthen the area)
- Your mouth is healthy
- You don’t have a condition that may make it difficult to heal
- You don’t want to or can’t wear dentures
- You don’t want your dental work to negatively affect your speech
- You are patient and can commit to several visits to the dentist
- You are a non-smoker
The Dental Implant Procedure
Fortunately, no matter how or why you lost your tooth, improving your bite and restoring your beautiful smile is possible! Dental implants are one of the most promising ways to replace a single tooth as they can blend in seamlessly and comfortably with the rest of your existing teeth.
Dental implants replace a lost, damaged, or decayed tooth with a tooth that looks, feels, and functions very much like your real tooth. During the dental implant procedure, a metal post is installed in the jawbone, and an artificial tooth or crown is placed. While dental implants can be expensive, they function and look like your teeth and have a 95% success rate.
Nearly 3 million people in the U.S. have already undergone a dental implant procedure, and that number is only expected to grow (by nearly 500,000 per year)!
If this is the method of teeth restoration you choose (over other options, such as a bridge, crown, or dentures), here’s what you can expect:
- Comprehensive Dental Evaluation
The first step in a dental implant procedure is to determine the health and condition of your jaw and mouth. Your dental team will take X-rays and 3D images as well as an impression of your teeth. They’ll also look at the color of your teeth to create a tooth that looks natural. And they’ll look at your overall health and any medications (your medical history) before providing a treatment plan that’s unique to you.
2. Tooth Extraction
Depending on the health of your mouth, you may be given antibiotics to help prevent infection before your unhealthy tooth is removed. You may be given a local anesthetic (e.g., Novocaine or lidocaine) to numb the area and prevent pain as the tooth is removed. You should only feel a mild tug as the tooth is removed.
After the tooth is removed and through the healing process, your dentist may ask you to avoid blowing your nose or spitting forcefully, smoking, or drinking through a straw, which could dry out your mouth, increase pain, and lead to potential problems, such as a dry socket.
3. Bone Grafting and Dental Implant
Depending on the type of dental implant procedure (into the jawbone or under the gumline) and the health and strength of your jawbone, you may need bone grafting from another part of the jaw or body or with synthetic bone. This is because dental implants are surgically placed into the jaw, where they can act as the roots of the tooth. If the bone isn’t thick enough or is too soft to hold the implant, a bone graft may be needed to create a solid base.
Again, depending on the health of your mouth, your dentist may also insert the implant at this time, or you may need to wait until your next appointment. To place the implant, the surgeon will cut the gum to expose the bone and drill a hole into the bone to put a metal post deeply into the bone.
After the dental implant procedure, you’ll have to wait three to nine months as the bone grows around the implant and heals before moving onto the next steps. In the meantime, you may be left with a gap or have a temporary denture placed.
If the implant is stable, your dentist will also add an abutment over the implant, which will later attach to the new tooth (or crown). A healing cap will be placed over the abutment piece to prevent tissue or bone from growing over the implant.
4. Placing the Permanent Crown
Finally! The long wait is over. Your bone and gums are healed, your jaw is strong, the metal post is securely in place, and it’s time to place the permanent replacement tooth or crown.
The entire process can take nearly a year (though sometimes less) and multiple visits to your dentist.
Throughout the dental implant process, you may feel some discomfort, such as bruising or swelling of the gums and face, minor bleeding, and even pain at the implant location. Before your procedures, stock up on soft foods and some ice packs to be more comfortable.
Once it’s all done, you’ll be rewarded with a solid support for your teeth and a healthy, happy smile for decades to come. You can help your new (and existing) teeth remain healthy and strong by keeping your mouth clean with a good oral hygiene routine, seeing your dentist regularly, and avoiding habits that can damage teeth, such as smoking, grinding your teeth, chewing on hard items like ice and hard candies, etc.
If you have lost a tooth or need to have a tooth removed, contact our High Point Cosmetic Dentistry Practice at (366) 841-0000 to make an appointment today or to discuss possible options, including a dental implant procedure.