A dental implant is an aesthetically pleasing treatment option for patients with missing teeth. It is also a functional and more reliable alternative to bridges and dentures. Dental implants are available to replace a single tooth or multiple teeth and allow patients the peace of mind and aesthetic appearance of a natural tooth. Unlike bridges, dental implants do not need to sacrifice the health and structure of the surrounding teeth, and unlike dentures, implants are permanent fixtures in your mouth that work and act like a natural tooth.
Dental implants are titanium fixtures placed in the jawbone. Over time, the implant and bone form a bond, giving the implant the strength and support to hold the tooth-like crown. While implants can repair and enhance any smile, several conditions need to be met beforehand to ensure the lasting success of the dental implant.
Dental implants are screwed into the jawbone to hold the visible dental crown. The strength of the implant depends directly on the strength and volume of the bone. Unfortunately, when teeth are missing or damaged for some time, the bone begins to deteriorate, or atrophy, since there is no stimulation from chewing or pressure. This leaves the patient with an inadequate bone structure and affects their candidacy for dental implants. Bone grafts or ridge augmentations are performed to increase the quantity and strength of the existing jawbone. A bone graft enhances the amount and strength of the jawbone through the use of harvested bone from the jaw, or bone that is donated through a tissue bank. This transplanted bone fills in the vacant spaces and adds needed strength and structure to hold the dental implant.
Ridge deformities also affect the strength and amount of bone in the upper and lower jaws. Ridge deformities are repaired through ridge augmentations that use harvested soft or hard tissues to recreate lost gum tissue and bone dimensions for added aesthetic appearance and functionality.
The Thickness of the Sinus Floor
In addition to bone strength and structure, a patient must also have an adequate thickness of the sinus floor. The sinuses are hidden behind your cheeks and above your upper back teeth. Unfortunately, a thin sinus floor cannot hold implants for an extended period. A sinus floor augmentation or sinus lift uses bone grafting material to create a thicker sinus floor to support the dental implant(s).
Once your implants have been placed, it is up to the patient to ensure that their implants are long-lasting. Implant maintenance means proper oral hygiene. Implants do not require any specialized form of maintenance; instead, they are treated as natural teeth. Good oral hygiene includes brushing teeth twice a day, flossing around the implants, and visiting your dentist three to four times a year for dental cleanings. Dental implants return functionality, increase comfort, and restore confidence in your dental appearance.