What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a titanium post that is used to replicate the root of a missing tooth. The implant is placed below the gumline and anchors into the jaw bone. Once healing ensues, an implant crown is placed to replicate the missing tooth. Implants are the optimal method for replacing a missing tooth for a variety of reasons. However, not every patient is a candidate for an implant. If you have extensive bone loss at the site of the missing tooth, it makes it more difficult to place a proper functioning/appearing implant.

Are there alternative options to replace a tooth besides an implant?

Other options for restoring a missing tooth include bridges and dentures. Bridges are the only other non-removable option to replace missing teeth. However, the ability to place a bridge requires an anchor tooth in front and back of the missing tooth. Therefore, if you lose your terminal molar, the only way to replace that tooth with a permanent restoration is with an implant. In addition, it is imperative that the anchor teeth are strong enough to support a bridge. Therefore if they have large cavities or short roots, they may not be able to support a bridge. 

Dentures are generally a last resort. Since they are removable and move around during function they can be very uncomfortable. Most patients wearing dentures undergo a considerable change in their diet due to those factors. They currently need denture adjustments and have sore spots that come and go as the denture irritates and rubs on their gums while eating.

Are implants better than bridges?

Yes, implants are the gold standard for replacing missing teeth. Dental implants have several advantages over bridges. Most importantly, the 15 year survival rate of dental implants is 95%. Bridges, on the other hand, have a survival rate of 74% over that same time period.  In order to place a dental bridge, the teeth adjacent to the missing tooth are shaved down to create space for the porcelain bridge. This can lead to long term problems with the anchor teeth since tooth structure has been removed. Any time you drill on a tooth, it can lead to future nerve problems and the need for a root canal. Dental implants are also much easier to clean. Since they are not connected to adjacent teeth you can brush and floss them normally. Bridges on the other hand are connected. Therefore, you can’t floss normally in between the missing tooth and the adjacent tooth. You would need to use a floss threader to floss underneath the bridge or a Waterpik. Failure rate increases as a result of poor cleansability.

How long do dental implants last?

Dental implants can last a lifetime as long as they are maintained properly. Once the implant is placed and has fully healed, it is imperative that you come for regular dental cleanings to remove any bacteria that accumulates around the implant.

Can I get my tooth replaced the same day?

In some cases we can extract your tooth and place the implant the same day. This depends on the quality and quantity of bone around the tooth that needs to be extracted. In cases with limited bone quality or a large infection, we typically extract the tooth, clean out the infection and place a bone graft in order to rebuild the lost bone. In these cases, we typically wait 3-4 months after the extraction and bone graft are completed in order to place the implant.

Why do I have to wait after the implant is placed to get a permanent crown?

It’s important to let your body heal prior to placing your permanent crown. If the implant is not fully integrated into the bone it will fail. Therefore it is important to ensure that bone healing around the implant is complete before we deliver your permanent crown.

What if I need all of my teeth replaced? Are there options other than dentures?

Advancements in implant technology have led to the ability to replace all of your missing teeth with implants. This is a procedure known as All-On-4 or All-On-X. The surgery is completed in one day. At that visit all of your teeth are removed, implants are placed and a temporary full arch bridge is placed. This bridge is non-removable and uses dental implants as anchors to hold it in place. After healing ensues, you return for your final bridge. This is the gold standard for replacing all of your missing teeth.

Frequently Asked Questions.

If I need several teeth replaced, do I need individual implants for each tooth?

In most cases no. Due to advancements in implant technology we can fabricate implant retained bridges. For instance, if you are missing four consecutive teeth we may be able to utilize two implants to replace those four teeth. Each patient will be evaluated to determine the recommended number of implants needed to successfully restore their missing teeth.

What happens with the space while I wait for my implant to heal?

For posterior teeth that are not visible we typically do not recommend a temporary prosthesis. However, for anterior teeth we will fabricate a removable partial prosthesis to replace the missing tooth.

What health conditions may effect my ability to get a dental implant?

The most common medical condition that effects the success rate of dental implants is Diabetes. If you have uncontrolled diabetes you may not be a candidate for dental implant placement.

I am a smoker. Can I get a dental implant?

Smoking greatly reduces the success of dental implants. We strongly recommend smoking cessation prior to implant placement to help improve the success rate.

Can I chew on the dental implant like a normal tooth?

Yes. Once the implant is fully healed you can function normally on it. Your ability to chew will drastically improve once the missing tooth is replaced.

What happens if I don’t replace the missing tooth?

Several changes will occur. The jawbone around the missing tooth will resorb over time, leading to bone loss. When you have several missing teeth this leads to structural changes that effect your smile and facial profile.

The teeth adjacent to the missing tooth will also begin to tip into this open space. This causes changes in your bite and can also lead to plaque retention as spaces between the adjacent teeth begin to form.

The adjacent teeth will also undergo more stress during chewing as they are taking more pressure when you bite down. This can lead to increased tooth wear and fractured teeth.

Check out the video below for further information on Austin dental implants.