At one time or another, many of us will experience the difficulty of losing a permanent tooth. Whether it’s due to severe tooth decay, gum disease, a failed root canal or an unfortunate accident, the loss of a tooth can have lasting effects on your entire mouth, and your ego. If the empty space in your mouth isn’t filled in a reasonable amount of time, adjacent teeth will start to shift and your bite will become misaligned. The jawbone where your tooth used to be will begin to shrink away, called resorption, which is a very difficult condition to restore. While prevention is always the first line of defense against tooth loss, tooth restoration has become a simple solution for many. With options ranging from fixed bridges to partial dentures or dental implants, together with your dentist you can develop a treatment plan that is best for you.
Fixed bridges and dentures are both viable options for many, but with today’s technological advances, most dental professionals agree that a dental implant supported by a crown or bridge is the best available choice. A dental implant consists of an artificial tooth root that is implanted into the jawbone. Where bridges and dentures often rely on surrounding teeth to support the artificial one, a dental implant can support itself. A crown is typically cemented or screw-retained into the “root” which eliminates concern for resorption as the jawbone remains engaged in chewing.
Most people in need of replacing a tooth or teeth are good candidates for implants. In order to undergo the process, you will need to have healthy gums, enough bone to anchor the implants in the jaw, and be committed to taking very good care of the implanted teeth and surrounding gums. Daily brushing, flossing and regular visits to the dentist are always important, but become crucial after having an implant. Even though most people will be eligible, some may not good candidates for implants. They include young people whose jawbones have not stopped growing, pregnant women, heavy smokers, alcohol or substance abusers, people who have received high-dose radiation treatment of the head or neck, people with chronic diseases or systemic problems (i.e. uncontrolled diabetes, connective-tissue diseases, hemophilia, etc), people who take certain medications, and people who severely grind their teeth. Your dentist will evaluate your situation to determine if a dental implant is an option, and together you’ll decide on the best plan for your tooth restoration.
Written by Mark Paulsort
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