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4 Factors to Consider When Getting a Dental Implant

There are a variety of situations that warrant the need for dental implants, or situations where I would recommend them for my patients. Simply put, anyone missing one, multiple, or all teeth should consider dental implants. That is not to say that every tooth needs to be replaced with an implant. But when replacement of a tooth is desired, dental implants have significant benefits over traditional dental options. However, there are a number of factors to consider in regard to getting implants.

1) Overall medical health

Generally speaking, patients considering dental implants should be in good overall health and have any ongoing medical conditions well-managed. Poor health and unhealthy lifestyles can lead to unfavorable outcomes with any surgical or dental procedure and dental implants are no exception to this fact. Dental implants are not “superheroes” that can survive in any type of health and, like teeth, they can fail due to poor health.
Patients with common medical conditions such as diabetes, heart conditions, osteoporosis, or autoimmune diseases, once controlled and well managed by a physician, can enjoy the benefits of dental implants.
Smoking is a special consideration, as it is harmful to both your general and dental health. Many patients who smoke have successful dental implants but the treatment is typically more challenging.
Two special medical situations require more attention are patients that receive radiation treatment to the jaws, i.e., for cancer treatment, or patients taking medication for osteoporosis. Either of these situations may interfere with bone healing and therefore need special consideration before getting dental implants.
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2) dental health

While dental implants are not at risk of getting decayed or ever needing a root canal, they do need healthy bone and gum tissue for long-term success. It is important to obtain and maintain a mouth without gum disease, decayed teeth and to have a good, well-aligned “bite.”
Sometimes it is necessary to treat and manage other dental problems before replacing missing teeth with dental implants. Routine and regular hygiene, as well as professional dental care, is required with dental implants just as with natural teeth.

3) Anatomy

Dental implants rely on the existing jawbone and tissue for support and health. Loss of teeth is generally associated with the loss or shrinkage of the jawbone.

Additionally, everyone also has their own unique anatomy of the jaws, which can vary in size, shape, and density. The upper jaw has the maxillary sinuses above the back teeth and the lower jaw has nerves which need to be avoided to prevent nerve damage.

Fortunately, today’s advanced dental technology enables us to do an excellent job of evaluating a patient’s jaw anatomy and thereby enhancing the chances for success. For patients with inadequate bone or tissue, bone grafting is available to enhance the anatomy and allow for placement of dental implants.

4) finances

Generally, dental implants are not the least expensive option for replacing missing teeth. However, dental implants do usually provide a superior quality of life, as patients receiving implants can avoid concerns about teeth moving or falling out, collecting food while eating, or being conscientious when you speak, eat, smile or laugh.

Dental implants are an investment in your quality of life, your confidence, health, and enjoyment. Still, your dental budget is important, just as with purchasing a car, and should be addressed when considering dental implants. At this time, implants are not typically fully covered by insurance plans, but oral surgeons are aware of this, so many of them offer financing plans for patients.


Possible Consequences of Not Getting Implants

There are a variety of negative consequences of missing teeth for patients choosing not to get dental implants. One such consequence is bone and tissue shrinkage, otherwise known as atrophy. Once the tooth has been extracted, a “socket” results in the jawbone where the tooth roots existed. The socket fills with a blood clot and wound healing begins immediately. The bony socket heals like a broken bone. The blood clot creates a matrix for bone cells from the blood to collect and begin bone healing.

The result is that the bone around the socket is no longer supported by the tooth root and begins to contract or shrink to eliminate the bone defect. Initially, there is significant bone shrinkage and then a defect results. Unfortunately, shrinkage of the bone and tissue continues to occur over time, much like a slowly melting ice cube. This process of bone “melting away” is called atrophy.

Other possible treatments, such as bridges or dentures, accelerates loss of teeth and bone, which can eventually make it difficult, if not impossible, for a patient to receive dental implants. To place a bridge, the natural teeth next to missing teeth must be cut down to place crowns. The natural teeth offer support for the replacement artificial teeth and take on more of the chewing forces.

There are potential problems with bridges. It is difficult to clean under a bridge, and decay may develop on one or more of the supporting teeth. The additional forces and recurrent decay may lead to an earlier loss of the supporting teeth, and a vicious cycle of tooth loss and bone shrinkage may follow.

Partial dentures are removable replacement teeth that hook to existing teeth for support with clasps. A problem with this treatment is that besides being aesthetically undesirable, the clasps may lead to loss of the anchor teeth over time. A complete denture replaces a full arch of missing teeth and sits directly on the gum tissue. The bone and tissue under a partial or complete denture usually suffer from accelerated bone shrinkage due to the continual chewing forces the dentures place on the jaws.

Over the past three decades, I've helped countless patients learn about the best option for their missing teeth, even if prior oral surgeons had said they couldn't help them. My team and I work with you to understand your medical and oral health as well as to maximize your insurance benefits.  

If you're ready to take the next step, book a consultation with us so we can help you like we've helped thousands of other patients. 

This blog post is based on an excerpt from Dr. Scott Frank's chapter in the book, "A Reason to Smile: Fixing Broken Confidence with Cosmetic Dentistry." 


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