Patients who have suffered tooth loss are faced with various options when it comes to tooth replacement. The most common options available today are dental implants, bridges and removable dentures. However, out of all the options available, dental implants are by far the most comfortable, reliable and aesthetically viable solution.
What makes dental implants different?
Dental implants are considered by far the best restorative option for tooth loss available today. Implants provide patients with tooth replacement that is lifelike. The titanium structure that serves as the root of the implant fuses with the jawbone after surgery. This provides structural integrity to implant. The biggest variable is the quality of the dental implant itself. With so many cheaper clones on the market, it is hard for the patient to understand that they have a choice as to what quality of implant they want permanently installed in their jaw.
They are considered the most comfortable and functional tooth replacement option as they look, feel and function typically 75-90% like natural teeth. They also work to improve one’s appearance as they look just like natural teeth and support the facial muscles. I have had a number of patients comment that their implant saved them from undergoing a plastic surgery, because it smoothened enough wrinkles on their face.
How long do dental implants last?
There are various factors that affect the longevity of dental implants. These include:
Suitability of the patient for the procedure
For implants to last, adequate support is required. This comes as a result of the implant fusing with the jaw bone (osseointegration). The patient must therefore, have adequate bone in their jaw to support the implant. Patients who have suffered some bone loss in addition to losing teeth must therefore undergo careful evaluation by their dental surgeon to determine their suitability for implants. Mini implants or short implants are not a predictable compromise for inadequate bone.
In cases where patients don’t have enough bone to support implants, bone regeneration must first be completed.
Poorly placed implants can lead to implant failure and it is therefore important to ensure that you are cared for by someone that has placed hundreds or preferably thousands of implants. Experience and training really matter in this field.
Gum diseases and conditions Implant success: Conditions that contribute to tooth loss such as advanced tooth decay or gum disease can also lead to dental implant failure. Patients should therefore be vigilant in their oral hygiene after undergoing an implant surgery. Wear on the attached teeth: Conditions such as clenching or grinding (bruxism) can also place undue stress on the implants and cause them to fail. Far more often the plastic teeth chip, pop off with plastic/acrylic on titanium full arch treatments. Unfortunately there is a trend for many practitioners to use this on all their patients. Happily there are time tested materials such as porcelain on noble metal and newer prosthetic materials (such as Zirconium) that are more durable. It is therefore important for dental surgeons and restorative dentists to thoroughly assess the dental history of the patient and determine if there are any conditions that ought to be treated before proceeding with the insertion of implants.
Various lifestyle factors such as smoking, having uncontrolled diabetes, and taking Selective Serotonin reuptake inhibitors also affect the longevity of dental implants. Proper care of dental implants may require some minor changes in your lifestyle.
Implants can last for decades when properly taken care of. If you are unsure of how to take care of your implants, your dentist can provide you with help.Multiple research studies from the 1990’s show single tooth implants last at least 10 years in more than 95% of patients. The same results have been shown in countless studies for full arch implant work: Bar’s with over-dentures, teeth in a day, hybrid dentures, immediate loading of implants and fixed complete bridgework.
You brush and floss daily and don't snack on sugary treats, yet you've had your fair share of cavities. Your friend, on the other hand, is lax with the dental hygiene and lives on energy drinks and junk food, yet rarely has a cavity. What gives?
Cavities, which result from a disease process called dental caries, are areas of decay caused by certain oral bacteria. As the decay progresses, the bacteria can eventually invade the living portion of the tooth (dentin and pulp) and is considered a bacterial infection. At that point professional dental treatment is required to remove the infection, stop the disease process and seal the tooth.
This disease process requires certain combinations of conditions in order to progress. So it's likely that you have more of those conditions, or risk factors, than your friend does. Don't beat yourself up; while there are lots of things you can do to minimize risks, there are also factors that aren't so easily controlled.
Tooth Decay Risk Factors
Let's take a look at those risk factors:
Oral Bacteria — Cavities start with bacteria that build up on tooth surfaces in a sticky film called plaque where they feed on sugars and carbohydrates from the foods/beverages we consume, creating acids in the process. Acids dissolve the mineral bonds in the protective layer of tooth enamel, which makes it easier for bacteria to penetrate what is otherwise the hardest substance in the human body and infect the tooth. Your unique oral "microbiome" make-up could have more or less of the microbe species implicated in dental caries, and some strains of the same bugs are more aggressive than others.
Dental hygiene — Brushing and flossing correctly and regularly helps dislodge bacterial plaque and trapped food particles. Regular checkups and professional cleanings are also important to remove plaque that has hardened into "tartar."
Diet — Minimizing your intake of sugary foods and carbohydrates reduces the availability of fuel for cavity-causing bacteria. Meanwhile, acidic foods and beverages can erode enamel, and the more frequently they are consumed, the less opportunity saliva has to restore the mouth to its normal pH.
Dry mouth — Saliva contains minerals that help neutralize acids and rebuild tooth enamel. Without a healthy flow, your ability to prevent decay is compromised. Certain medications, chemotherapy and some diseases can cause dry mouth. Drinking lots of water and using enamel-fortifying mouth rinses can help counter the effects.
Tooth shape — Tooth decay is most likely to develop in back teeth — molars and bicuspids (premolars) — where the tiny fissures on their biting surface tend to trap food and bacteria. Genetics determines how deep your fissures are.
Gum recession — Receding gums expose the tooth root, which isn't protected by enamel and therefore more susceptible to decay.
Other factors — Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) and vomiting can create highly acidic conditions in the mouth. Retainers, orthodontic appliances and bite or night guards tend to restrict saliva flow over teeth, promoting plaque formation; fixed appliances like braces can make it more difficult to brush and floss effectively.