When someone in good overall health loses a tooth due to gum disease, an acute injury, or an oral infection, dental implants are fantastic and safe long-term solutions. They do not require the upkeep that dentures require and provide a patient with results that are aesthetically pleasing. Because of their high-success rate (98%), and their popularity in the world of dentistry, dental implants are becoming one of the most common procedures that those with tooth loss seek.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is the closest that a person can get to having a natural tooth. Meant to mimic the root of a tooth, a dental implant uses a screw to act as a tooth’s “root.” This screw is inserted into the jawbone (much like a tooth’s root connects to the jawbone). Then, once the bone has fused with the screw, a crown (an artificial and custom-made tooth) is applied to the implant.
Many factors contribute to whether someone is eligible for a dental implant. Overall health, for example, is crucial as smokers, excessive consumers of alcohol, those with periodontal disease, or those with diabetes usually do not respond well to dental implants.
Another cause of concern for many is bone density. In order for the dental implant to fuse with a patient’s jawbone, an adequate level of bone density is needed to ensure a successful outcome. Fortunately, there is an option for those who lack the bone density required for dental implants: bone grafting.
Bone Grafting: What Is It?
Bone grafting is a procedure that is meant for those who do not have enough bone for a dental implant. Usually, deterioration of bone occurs after a traumatic injury or when a tooth has been left to rot and decay. Bone crafts create a solid and secure base for dental implants.
Bone Grafting: The Procedure
Dental implants rarely occur in one procedure; they usually take place over a certain number of stages. First, if you have a damaged tooth that needs to be removed, it will be extracted. Then, your periodontal surgeon will prepare your jawbone for a surgical procedure. This is usually when bone grafting will take place.
In order to provide a future implant with a solid base, bone will be taken from either another part of the jaw, from another part of the body, from a cadaver, or from an animal source (if you have ethical reasons for preferring one over the other, these preferences should be discussed with your surgeon ahead of time). The latter two options have proven to be just as successful as the former two and help the patient to avoid a second surgical site.
Once the bone has been obtained, this piece of bone will then be placed into the patient’s jawbone. Then, the waiting begins. It will take several months for the new bone to grow enough to support an implant. Once the jawbone has healed and the bone has sufficiently grown, the implant will be placed into the jaw.
Again, this may require several months of healing time. After the area is fully healed, an extension of the implant is placed into the jaw; this extension is what the crown will attach to. Once the extension insertion area heals, a crown is then placed on top of the implant.
Bone Grafting: After
Bone grafts are time consuming. However, they provide those without the bone density required for an implant to receive an implant. Healing is usually accompanied by usual discomfort like gum swelling, bruising, or bleeding and patients are instructed to eat only soft foods while their mouths heal.
Because bone grafting requires an additional surgical step, it is important that you seek out a specialist that is board certified in periodontology and dental implant surgery to ensure that you experience optimal results and no complications.
If you have been told that you are not eligible for a dental implant because you lack the bone required for a successful implant, consider seeking out an oral surgeon that has experience in bone grafting. Because it is a complicated procedure, many dentists may not offer it in-house; however, this does not necessarily mean that your lack of bone density diminishes your candidacy for a dental implant.
When someone thinks of dentures, they usually think of traditional dentures that are relatively unstable. Unfortunately, when someone is told that they need dentures, the news is usually met with despair because they associate dentures with dentures of the past. Fortunately, for those who require dentures, implant-supported dentures are a fantastic denture option.
Dentures With Implant Support
Regular, traditional dentures rest on the patient’s gums; this is why they are generally seen as unstable. They have nothing holding them down. Unlike regular dentures, dentures that are supported by implants are stable because they snap into dental implants. A common misconception is that in order to receive dentures that are supported by implants, one must have some teeth in the mouth. This is not the case. If there are no teeth present, the jaw will be observed. If the jaw has enough bone to support an implant, implant-supported dentures are viable and worthwhile options for patients in need of dentures.
Typically, dentures that are supported by implants are used in the lower jaw. Regular dentures in the lower jaw are usually more unstable than dentures applied to the upper jaw. Patients can opt to also have upper-jaw dentures implant-supported; however, this is not always necessary as traditional upper jaw dentures provide more stability than they do in the lower jaw. Despite the fact that these dentures differ from traditional dentures, they still need to be treated with the same level of care, should be cleaned properly, and still needed to be taken out at night. Patients should not sleep with their dentures in their mouths.
The two kinds of implant-supported dentures available are ball-retained dentures and those that are retained by a bar. Both of these options are made with base using an acrylic material resembling the look of gums. Additionally, the teeth used in the dentures are made using either porcelain or acrylics and are designed to look like the patient’s natural teeth. Ball-retained implant-supported dentures are require two implants that are implanted into the jaw. Each implant is equipped with a ball-shaped metal attachment that fits into another attachment. These attachments are then snapped into the denture itself. Bar-retained implant-supported dentures are slightly different. They follow the natural curve of the jaw using a metal bar that is thin. Bar-retained dentures require up to five implants. Attachments like clips are added to the bar and denture. The denture is then slid over the bar and clipped into place.
The location of a patient’s implant-supported dentures ultimately depends on their location. Because the front of the mouth usually has more bone to work with, implants are usually placed in the front of the mouth. The entire process takes months to complete with 5 months being the shortest amount of time for the implants in the low jaw and 7 months for implants in the upper portion of the jaw. If bone grafting is needed for the implants, the process can take over a year. Usually, the process is broken up into two separate procedures on two separate dates. The first procedure is more surgical and involves the actual implantation inside of the jawbone of the implants. The second procedure exposes the top of the implants by breaking through the gum that has covered and healed over the implants from the first procedure. This is usually done around 5 months after the first procedure. While a patient is waiting for the process to be completed, they will be given temporary dentures in the meantime by their dentist.
Dentures that are supported by implants are more stable than traditional dentures. Those with implant-supported dentures find that they have an easier time talking and eating than they did with traditional dentures. If a patient opts for dentures with implant support in the upper jaw, an added benefit is that the dentures do not take up as much space in the upper jaw, which frees up space in the palate; again, making it easier to speak and eat. While there are benefits, caution should still be taken, and hard or sticky foods should still be avoided.
Dentures that are supported by implants are worth speaking to your dentist about. Speak with your dentist today for an even more detailed explanation of the overall process and to determine whether or not you qualify for dentures with implant support.
Most adults can confidently say that they have had at least one cavity in their lives. Sometimes, cavities happen. Unfortunately, because they sometimes do not initially hurt or present with any major sensitivity, cavities can often be overlooked until they become more severe in nature.
What Is a Cavity?
A small hole in the tooth that indicates decay, a cavity cannot heal on its own and requires medical intervention. A cavity is often caused by bacteria-ridden plaque that is affixed to the teeth. These bacteria create an acid that deteriorates the teeth and eventually causes a cavity.
When should you treat a cavity?
You should treat a cavity as soon as possible. If left untreated, a cavity will increase in size resulting in permanent damage to the tooth affected. Every tooth has three lines of defense: the enamel, the dentin, and the pulp. With a cavity, the enamel is the first part of the tooth that is affected. Acting as the tooth’s protective layer, the enamel does what it can to protect the sensitive inner layers of the teeth from damage.
If a cavity is not found quickly enough, it will penetrate the tooth’s enamel and enter the second layer of the tooth, the dentin layer. This will result in more pain and more damage to the tooth. Finally, if the cavity is still not treated, the bacteria will reach the pulp.
The tooth’s pulp is the innermost layer and contains all of the tooth’s blood vessels and nerves. One the cavity reaches the pulp, a filling may not be enough to fix the damage that has occurred. At this stage, a cavity often leads to either extraction of the tooth or a root canal.
Damage to the teeth aside, waiting to treat a cavity can result in a great deal of pain. When a cavity first begins to form, there is little pain. Sometimes, when dental patients come in for their regular cleanings and check-ups, their dentist finds a small cavity and fills it on the spot. This is the most ideal situation in regard to finding and treating cavities.
If caught early, there is no concerning damage to the tooth and the treatment is not as costly as the treatments required if a cavity is left untreated. According to research, around 28% of adults are currently walking around with untreated cavities noting cost and having to get a filling as reasons for avoiding making an appointment with their dentist. Unfortunately, the longer treating a cavity is put off, the more severe the symptoms and the costlier treatment becomes.
Once a cavity reaches the pulp, pain is inevitable; not just in the tooth, but in the face as well. Facial swelling and potential infections to the jaw or blood can occur and can result in needing emergent care that will likely end with the tooth being extracted.
As the saying goes, prevention is the best medicine. In order to ensure that your mouth remains cavity-free, proper oral hygiene and a tooth-healthy diet are essential. It is important to maintain a twice-daily brushing and flossing routine. Further, regular dental cleanings and check-ups can help not only prevent cavities but can catch any cavities before they become problematic.
Your dentist can also apply a dental sealant to your teeth to help protect your teeth against cavities. A dental sealant is essentially a protective coating made of plastic that is placed on the chewing surfaces of the back molars and can last for years.
Finally, a tooth-healthy diet is imperative as cavity-causing bacteria feed off of sugary and starchy foods. Cutting back on things like sugary drinks and sweets, making sure that you are drinking an adequate amount of water daily, and incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your daily diet can help ward off cavities.
If it has been a while since you visited your local dentist for a check-up, make an appointment as soon as possible so that you can catch any cavities before they progress. If you have any tooth pain or sensitivity, it is important to see your dentist as quickly as possible because it is likely that a cavity has already started to increase in size.