It is well known around the world that Americans care about how our teeth look. Nearly all (96%) of us feel a nice smile is essential to romantic success. Nearly 75% of feel a good smile is needed for a good career. Yet, many of us are missing at least one tooth. Over the next 15 years, the number of people missing teeth is expected to grow to at least 200 million in the United States. This is one of the reasons that cosmetic dentistry is such a growing field.
When people lose a tooth, they also start to lose bone from their jaw. The more teeth they are missing, the greater the bone loss. Putting something in the place of the missing tooth or teeth is very important to preserving their oral and general health. Cosmetic dentists have several options for tooth restoration such as dentures, bridges and increasingly they are turning to dental implants. Dental implants offer a lot of benefits that the other options do not. They provide the closest thing to a natural tooth. In recent years, their use has grown but so has their success rate. Nearly 99% of all dental implants succeed. More and more insurance companies are coming around to seeing the benefits to covering this cosmetic dentistry option.
What is the dental implant process?
The dental implant itself is a replacement of the root and the process to put one in is multi-step.
Usually when a person loses a tooth, the root stays in place. Therefore, the first order of business is to remove whatever is left of the lost tooth. This is done in an oral surgeon or cosmetic dentist’s office under local anesthesia or intravenous sedation. It is a quick, easy and most importantly painless procedure.
Next the mouth and jaw need to be checked out to see if the jaw bone can tolerate and support an implant. If there has been significant bone loss or if there was not a lot of bone in the jaw to begin with, the patient can be given a bone graft to replace or augment the amount of bone in the jaw.
Once everything is healed and the person is ready, they are ready to have the dental implant put in. Again this is a procedure that can be done under local or general anesthesia but it is oral surgery. After opening the gum, the surgeon drills a hole into the jaw bone itself to insert the implant, which is considered to be a replacement for the root that has been lost. A healing cap is often placed atop the implant. After this is in, the patient goes home for recovery. This is not a major procedure but recovery is still needed for the next step in the process.
The next step is to add the abutment. This is the piece to which a crown will be affixed. Using local anesthesia, the surgeon or cosmetic dentist, reopens the area and attaches an abutment. Some will go ahead and attach a temporary crown at the same time. It all depends on the situation and the patient’s needs at the time. If you are considering this, you should talk to your cosmetic dentist.
The last phase in the process is the attachment of a permanent crown. Your cosmetic dentist will work to match the crown to the rest of your teeth. Once it is in, it should look, act and feel like the rest of your mouth. Yay! No more lost tooth. Yay, cosmetic dentistry!
Caring for the dental implant is simple. Follow the good hygiene practices such as regular brushing, flossing and rinsing with a mouthwash. The implant is not exactly like the other teeth in your mouth and needs to be kept a little cleaner but if you already practice good oral hygiene, you should be fine. Talk to your cosmetic dentist if you have concerns about the maintenance and upkeep of the dental implant.
While Americans do care about their teeth, there is a reason we have the field of cosmetic dentistry. Regular visits with a dentist can help save your teeth and prevent needing any kind of fake tooth.