Dental implants protect your oral health in unique ways.
If you’ve lost one or more teeth, you’ve likely heard people—including dentists—say that dental implants are the best tooth replacement option out there. But this statement raises a lot of questions that you may not know the answers to, including how losing teeth impacts your oral health, how implants work, and what sets them apart from other tooth replacement options.
Dental implants consist of a titanium metal rod that’s embedded directly into your jaw and fitted with a dental restoration like a crown, bridge, or dentures. Their unique placement makes them the only tooth restoration that replaces your entire missing tooth, all the way down to the roots, which allows it to function much like a natural tooth.
This also allows the dental implants to protect the health of your jawbone in unique ways that no other dental restoration can. We know just how important it is to have all the facts on any treatment before you make a final decision, especially a treatment as long-lasting as dental implants, so we’ve put together a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of tooth loss and how dental implants can protect the long-term health and functionality of your teeth and jaws as well as the beauty of your smile.
What are the repercussions of missing teeth?
If you’ve lost one or more teeth, you know that it can impact the appearance of your smile—and your confidence in it—in addition to making it harder to carry out once-simple tasks like eating or speaking. That’s not where the effects of missing teeth end, though, as it can impact the health of your teeth and gums in many potentially surprising ways. When you lose a tooth, your remaining teeth begin shifting into the gap that it left. This creates small gaps between each of your teeth, making it harder to brush and floss them effectively, which in turn leads to an increased risk of cavities and gum disease.
This shift in the position of your teeth, even if it’s slight, can also change the way your bite fits together. It can cause you to develop a malocclusion and may even lead to temporomandibular joint disorder symptoms like jaw pain, difficulty chewing, frequent headaches, muscle pain, and more. Losing a tooth also affects your jaw by leading to bone loss where the tooth root used to sit. Over time, this loss of bone density can cause a range of its own issues for the health of your jaw as well as for your oral health.
These problems are why treating a missing tooth through restorative dentistry is so important. These treatments can stop these effects in their place, though dental implants are the only treatment out there that can protect your jaw against bone loss. With the right treatment and great oral hygiene, your gums, teeth, and jaw can remain healthy for a lifetime even after you’ve lost a tooth.
Why does the jawbone deteriorate?
The jawbone deteriorates once you lose a tooth because tooth roots do more than simply anchor themselves in place—they keep your jawbone healthy. It’s an amazing process when you think about it! Every time you chew or otherwise apply pressure against your teeth, that pressure is transferred from your tooth roots to your jawbone.
The resulting stimulation sends signals to your jaw that the bone there needs to continue getting the nutrients it needs to grow and heal. When you lose a tooth, however, the root is no longer there to do this, which means those signals don’t get sent. Your body begins reabsorbing the bone in a process called bone resorption.
What else happens as the bone deteriorates?
The loss of bone density that occurs when you lose a tooth can cause a range of issues. Your remaining teeth often begin shifting into the gap left behind by your missing tooth, sometimes at a forward angle. It also makes your jawbone weaker there, which is a concern for your health and potential future injuries. As time passes, bone resorption can even change the shape and overall appearance of your face by changing the shape of your jaw.
The process can lead to distinct features like the sunken-in appearance of teeth and jaws that is a common outcome for traditional denture wearers. Plus, without the teeth and the usual fullness of your jaw to fill out your face, it can begin looking more wrinkled than it otherwise would.
Why don’t dentures take care of the problem?
Dentures resolve many of the issues brought about by tooth loss, such as restoring your confidence in your smile and making it easier to eat and speak again, but they can’t prevent bone resorption. The reason they can’t is because they don’t go beneath the surface—dentures only restore the crowns of your teeth. The crown is the visible part of a tooth, the portion that you use to chew your food and that you show off when you smile. Since they’re just restoring this surface-level part of your teeth, dentures don’t go deep enough to provide your jawbone with the direct stimulation it needs to stay healthy.
How do dental implants protect your jawbone from deterioration?
Thankfully, bone resorption is far from an inevitable aspect of tooth loss! Since dental implants are embedded directly into your jaw, they’re designed to restore your entire tooth right down to the roots. This makes them more secure and helps them feel more natural and comfortable, but it also gives them the unique ability to carry out the jobs of a natural tooth root. Just like a natural tooth root, dental implants put pressure on the bone around them as you chew, building and retaining the strength of your jawbone.
Even the titanium material that the implants’ rods are made from plays a role in their incredible ability to keep your jaw strong and healthy. Titanium is biocompatible, which means your body treats it as a natural part of itself. The metal actively encourages osseointegration, which is the process through which the bone around your implant heals and even grows up around it to hold it in place more securely, just like it would with a natural tooth root.
Because of this, dental implants can even reverse a small amount of bone loss already present in your jaws! Dental implants do need a certain amount of healthy bone to be successful, however, so if you’ve already experienced some bone loss, it’s wise to schedule a consultation with your dentist in Lakeway, Texas, to see if they’re an option for you.
Additionally, other tooth replacement options like bridges and partial dentures often require significant and otherwise-unnecessary dental work on the healthy teeth near the gap in your smile to anchor the restoration in place. Dental implants avoid this dilemma entirely because they don’t require any work to be done on your nearby healthy teeth, preserving and protecting them. Your natural, healthy teeth get to stay that way!
Dental implants can protect your jawbone and restore your smile.
While bone resorption is one of many consequences of tooth loss, it isn’t inevitable! Dental implants restore and protect the health, function, and appearance of your teeth and gums while also keeping your jawbone strong and healthy for a lifetime to come.
Once you’ve learned the unique ways that implants protect your health, it’s easy to see why so many dentists say they’re the best tooth restoration available! If you’d like to learn more about dental implants or any other tooth restoration options, feel free to schedule an appointment with our Bee Cave, TX, dentist at any time.