Dental implants are one of the great advantages of modern dentistry. Used to replace one or more missing teeth, they can look completely natural. In addition to their cosmetic effects, however, they serve an important functional purpose – saving the jaw bone. Here’s how that works, courtesy of Mesa Dental.
A Bit About Implants
An implant consists of three pieces. The implant itself is placed into the jaw, usually under local anesthesia. A piece called an abutment is then screwed onto the implant. Finally, a prosthetic crown is attached to the abutment. The implant and abutment are made of metal (usually titanium) and the prosthetic tooth is made from porcelain or composite resin, a kind of plastic.
Tooth Loss and the Jawbone
You’ve probably read or heard that weight-bearing exercise builds strong bones. That same principle applies to the jawbone; the weight-bearing exercise occurs when you chew. If you lose a tooth, the bone in that area becomes thinner and weaker. Bone loss begins in the first year and you can lose as much as 25 percent of the bone under the missing tooth by the end of the year.
Multiple Missing Teeth
Losing one tooth can be a problem, but losing multiple teeth makes a bad situation worse. In addition to the cosmetic aspects and difficulty chewing food, the basal bone (bone underneath the surface) begins to weaken and thin. Your cheeks become hollow, the lower third of the face begins to collapse and the front teeth start to push forward. Your lips sag and you have an increased risk of jawbone fractures.
Fixes for Missing Teeth
Bone loss from missing teeth is a serious problem. Dentures don’t fix the problem, as they can’t put enough pressure on the bone to stimulate growth. A fixed bridge – which is attached to teeth on either side of a gap – must be perfectly maintained or the risk of additional tooth loss increases. Implants, on the other hand, function just like a natural tooth, and exercise the bone when you chew. In addition, they can be made to look exactly like your own teeth.
If you’re missing one or more teeth, dental implants can help solve the problem. You’ll look better and have a healthy jawbone. Please contact us if you have questions or to schedule an appointment.