Teeth are important not only for chewing, but for general health and well being. Teeth are usually lost because of injuries, cavities or gum disease. While losing a front tooth is of concern to most people because of appearance, even a missing back tooth affects more than just the ability to eat, causing the adjacent to teeth to drift and alter the bite leading to more stress on other teeth or even headaches and jaw muscle spasms.
A single missing tooth can be replaced by a variety of techniques, the least expensive being an acrylic flipper which is removable. A more stable removable option is a cast removable denture. However, most people do not prefer wearing a removable prosthesis, which needs to be removed and cleaned daily, and changed after a few years. A fixed treatment option is a bridge, which involves cutting the healthy teeth adjacent to the missing tooth, so crowns can be fitted, which are connected to the replacement tooth.
The replacement solution which is closest to natural teeth is a dental implant. The implant replicates a tooth root anchored in the jaw bone, producing more natural looking aesthetic contours near the gum line of the replacement tooth. Being integrated with the bone, implants safeguard against the slow natural loss of bone which occurs when a tooth is lost.
A single implant surgery is a minor oral surgery, and can be performed in an office appointment that takes about an hour. You can also opt for a light oral or laughing gas sedation for comfort before the local anesthesia is injected. The titanium implant is placed within a socket created in the jawbone with special equipment. Most people are quite comfortable after the procedure, needing medication and antibiotics for only a few days. A temporary replacement tooth is placed while the implant heals. A few months after the implant placement, the tissue over the implant is contoured to expose the implant top, into which a post or abutment can be fitted to support the crown. Over the next appointments, impressions are made so the laboratory makes a specialized crown which can be cemented or screwed onto the abutment.
Going from missing a tooth to getting an implant supported crown, may mean a time span as short as three months, to six months, depending upon the individual case. In many cases, the implant may be placed at the same time as extraction, known as immediate implant placement, which cuts down the number of visits as well the length of the procedure. In some cases where a lot of bone is already lost, additional bone may need to be created before implant placement by a bone grafting procedure. As with every individual, every case is different. A personalized consultation with your local dentist would help you make the right choice!