There are several reasons why patients who have lost teeth should have them restored with dental implants. A lost tooth can negatively impact your dentition and make you more likely to lose teeth in the future. Whether it’s a molar or an incisor, a lost tooth changes the way your teeth are aligned and the way you chew your food.
Changes to Your Bite
Many people think a lost tooth is “just one tooth” and they can get along fine without it. However, what most people don’t realize is that just one missing tooth can destabilize your whole bite. When that tooth is lost, nearby teeth will slowly shift into the space and cause a cascade of changes to your dental function. Teeth that once fit nicely together will no longer chew properly and may experience greater friction, which can lead to worn down enamel and cracked teeth. A lost molar can also affect your ability to chew with one side of the mouth, and may lead to muscle fatigue and symptoms TMJ disorder.
Dental Bridges vs. Implants
There are two options for replacing a single missing tooth. The traditional restoration is a dental bridge, which sits over the gap, and attaches two the two teeth adjacent to the lost tooth. A bridge can restore the appearance and chewing function of the tooth, and should last many years before needing maintenance or repair.
A dental implant is different from a bridge because it replaces the tooth, root to crown. A titanium base is implanted into the jawbone, to mimic the missing tooth root, and an artificial crown is permanently attached once the implant has healed and fused with the bone.
Why Implants are Preferred
Dental implants are considered the better of the two options for three reasons:
(1) A dental implant stands alone and does not rely on the health of other teeth.
(2) Dental implants prevent bone loss in the jaw.
(3) Dental implants require far less long-term maintenance and repair than bridges.
Since bridges are attached to the teeth around the gap, their stability is bound to the health of those teeth. If one of those teeth should fail, the bridge will fail. For example, if one of the teeth suffers severe decay or becomes destabilized by gum disease, the whole bridge will need to be replaced, if that’s even possible. Dental implants stand alone and are not subject to tooth decay.
Dental implants are also better for the long-term health of your jaw because their presence prevents jawbone resorption—an inevitability when roots are not present in the jaw. Without a tooth root taking up space in the jaw, our bodies begin to re-absorb the bone at the site of missing teeth. This can weaken the jawbone by reducing bone mass, and lead to changes in the size and shape of the jaw.
Dental implants are also more permanent than bridges. Like all dental work, bridges have a finite lifespan. With proper care, they typically can last 5-15 years or so before they need to be replaced. With proper oral hygiene and regular exams, dental implants have been known to last a lifetime. The crowns attached to the implants typically last 10-15 years.
Getting a Dental Implant
The process for replacing a tooth with an implant takes considerably longer than that of a bridge. This is because the implant needs a period of three months or more to properly fuse with the bone before the abutment and crown can be placed. Once we have determined that the implant has successfully completed the fusing process (osseointegration), you will need another about two weeks to heal from abutment placement, and then another two weeks or more for the customized crown to be fabricated.
It’s important to note that dental implants are typically more expensive than bridges. However, given the fact that implants require less long-term maintenance, over time the costs of the two are much closer. Many patients prefer to pay more upfront for a superior product, rather than opt for a restoration that will need to be replaced sooner.
If you’d like to learn more about dental implants for single tooth restoration, call Metropolitan Dental Care to set up a consultation with one of our skilled dentists. We’ll explain your options and assess your oral and overall health to determine whether you are a good candidate for this procedure. Call us at 303-534-2626 to make an appointment. Schedule your consultation at our Denver, CO or Lone Tree, CO dental office today!