Today I would like to sit down and discuss in depth all of the tremendous benefits of utilizing dental implants to replace missing teeth. Many times when patients come to us wanting to replace missing teeth, it is due to embarrassment or wanting to improve their overall smile. Both are great reasons to have dental implants done, but there are in fact many other reasons and benefits to having the implants done in addition to those reasons.
This post is a bit wordy, so I apologize for that. However, it’s very rare that we get to truly and in such depth go over all of these things while someone is sitting in our dental chair. So if someone is really considering the option of dental implants, this will hopefully shed light on all that the treatment can do for them!
I must admit I have a very engineer-type mind, and tend to think of the “nuts and bolts” aspects of implants, meaning how does it affect function, support, etc. And while I will go over all of these (as I think these really are the GREATEST benefit of dental implants replacing teeth), I will also go over the cosmetic and lifestyle enhancing aspects of implants that our patients all genuinely are more interested in! So without further ado…..
Let’s start with what exactly is a DENTAL IMPLANT?
A dental implant is a method used to replace a missing tooth. A titanium root is used to mimic a person’s tooth root, and then a porcelain tooth is attached to the dental implant to effectively replace the original tooth. Dental implants can replace one tooth, multiple teeth, or even an entire set of teeth. Much like when an orthopedic surgeon replaces a hip or a knee with a titanium replica, we replace a tooth in the same way! In my opinion, they are HANDS DOWN the best option to replace your teeth when needed.
Okay. Now that we know what dental implants are, let’s get into the benefits of why implants are so great.
1. Regain a Confident Smile
Losing a tooth can drastically affect your smile and self-confidence. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a way to put a new tooth back in and give you your smile back? Guess what? We can do that very easily with dental implants. Imagine no longer having to cover your smile up in photos or when you are laughing in front of people to hide that missing tooth. We custom create the dental implant tooth with porcelain to match your other teeth and return your smile back to its original beauty! And because it is permanently attached, you never have to worry about it slipping or coming loose like dentures or partial dentures do!
2. Restore the Ability to Eat Your Favorite Foods
There is no question that losing teeth will drastically reduce a person’s ability to eat the foods that they want. People commonly complain they can no longer eat items such as steak, corn on the cob, nuts, etc. Not only does this affect their quality of life and enjoyment, but it can drastically affect our health by not allowing people to get the proper nutrition that they require. Dental implants can be used to fully replace that missing functionality and get you back to eating whatever you want again! Dental implants can help you enjoy the foods you love the most and make sure you are getting proper nutrition at the same time.
3. The Most Natural Looking and Feeling Replacement
This is hands down the most exciting aspect of dental implants from the patient perspective. With bridges and partial dentures, we were always limited in how good we could make replacement teeth look and feel for our patients. Bridges have teeth that are fused together which can be hard to clean around and feel “clunky” in the patient’s mouth. Partial dentures can be very hard to get used to due to large pieces of metal and plastic that need to support the replaced tooth. This can cause bad gag reflexes and also major annoyance because the unit constantly moves around in your mouth when you talk and eat. Dental implants completely solve these problems! Because the implant emulates the tooth root, and the tooth is custom designed by our doctors and their dental lab team, we are able fully customize the tooth to look exactly like your other teeth! And even better, because it is securely fastened to the implant, there is no movement and no other parts than the tooth itself. It literally feels EXACTLY like your own natural teeth in your mouth!
4. Maintenance That is Similar to Your Own Teeth
Dental implants are pretty “low maintenance” compared to other tooth replacement options. Because they are SO SIMILAR to our own teeth, you take care of them just like you do your own teeth. You are already brushing and flossing your existing teeth, so there is no extra effort on your part to take care of the implant. Let’s compare that to the other options. A fixed bridge requires some extra maintenance because of the teeth on the bridge being fused together to cover the missing space. Because they are fused, your regular floss does not go straight through the teeth as it does between other teeth. Instead, you have to use specialized instruments to get under and clean underneath the bridge. This isn’t terrible to do, but it is extra work. Now let’s talk about cleaning partial dentures and dentures. Here, there is a large amount of extra work to undergo maintenance on these prostheses. They must be removed multiple times each day to clean, as well as undergo a more thorough cleaning process at night time to ensure proper cleanliness. Because they move around as you chew, you will commonly have food go underneath the dentures as you eat meals that requires you to clean them after every time you eat. Quite frankly, it can be quite a hassle. Implants don’t require any of these extra steps or inconveniences, so you can imagine how nice that would be comparatively.
5. More Durable and Long-Lasting Than Other Replacement Options
This is a very important benefit of dental implants. All options to replace missing teeth are large investments of money, so why not get the most bang for your buck? Dental implants last BY FAR much longer than any other replacement option. Dentures and partial dentures have teeth made out of acrylic, which can rapidly wear down and need replaced on average about every 5-10 years. Fixed bridges typically fail after 10 years on average, and when they do they often destroy the supporting teeth that they anchor to, and thus require even more significant expense to replace. Dental implants are made from titanium and strong porcelain and they don’t get tooth decay or break down (the common causes for failure of the other options). We expect that with proper care they will likely last a lifetime! Yes, it costs more than the other options initially, however when you factor in replacement costs, most patients end up saving TONS of money over the course of their lifetime since the implants don’t need replaced.
6. Help to Support the Remaining Teeth
This is a HUGE benefit of dental implants. Research has shown time and time again that losing teeth will cause the further degradation and breakdown of the other remaining teeth. Let’s dive in and see how this occurs. In a normal mouth (with no wisdom teeth), a person has 28 teeth to chew with. Okay, now let’s say we lose one tooth. This affects the other teeth in several ways. First, the teeth next to this area no longer have a tooth to contact against or bite against, and so those teeth can drift or shift around in that area, leading to problems such as gingivitis, tooth decay, crowding between teeth, or gaps between teeth. This worsens of course if more teeth are lost. Second, our jaw and muscles will still contribute the same chewing force when we chew our food. But now we only have 27 teeth. So those 27 teeth get more force exerted on them than when there was 28 teeth to distribute that force. Now imagine how significant that force would be if someone was missing a large amount of teeth. This will lead to accelerated wearing down of the teeth, increase risk and severity of broken teeth and fractures, and can increase risk of future TMJ (jaw joint) problems. All of these issues listed are quite expensive to fix (and usually more expensive in the long run than getting a dental implant placed). Preventive treatment is ALWAYS less expensive than reactive treatment!
Bridges solve some of these problems, and don’t solve others. By filling the space of the missing tooth, they do prevent the gingivitis and cavity risk and shifting and drifting that can cause spaces or crowding. However, they don’t help prevent the extra forces being exerted on the teeth. A bridge simply connects to the neighbor teeth, and the same forces are still applied to the fewer teeth, as compared to an implant. So the other teeth can still have accelerated wear, and can have increased risk of breaks and fractures.
Partial dentures actually worsen the condition of the remaining teeth. By securing the partial denture to your other teeth to help stabilize it, it actually can cause those teeth to slowly get rocked over and over and can cause them to loosen up and eventually degrade them to the point of needing removed. The forces being applied to the remaining teeth aren’t dissipated by having a partial denture either, so the remaining teeth are still subject to accelerated wear and broken teeth and fractures.
7. Help to Support the Bone and Gums
This is also a very important benefit of dental implants that none of the other tooth replacement options can do. Our tooth roots and the force that our bite applies to them helps to stimulate the bones and the surrounding gums and keep them strong and stable. When a tooth is extracted, the bone and gums in that area are no longer stimulated, and the bone and gums slowly resorb away. This can cause future problems for tooth replacements, which is why it is better to replace the tooth as soon as possible. If enough teeth are missing and the bone is lost, it can even have a profound effect on your facial structure, making one appear older and to have wrinkles and a “sunken” look to their face. When an implant is placed into that jawbone, the bone is once again stimulated and it can stay strong and stable. Implants have even been shown to have bone grow around them, thus making the jaw even stronger! Furthermore, the facial structure can be corrected thus allowing us to get back one’s youthful appearance. Neither of the other tooth replacement options stimulate the jaw bone, so the bone will continue to shrink over time. Another huge advantage to dental implants!