Dental implants are frequently the best option for replacing missing teeth. Rather than removable dentures, or fixed bridges, dental implants are the long-term replacements of choice. The implant is an artificial root usually made of titanium that your implant specialist surgically places in the jawbone.
Statistics show that most of adults under 50 have lost at least one permanent tooth. By age 75 nearly a third of adults have lost all of their permanent teeth. Twenty years ago, these patients would have had no alternative but to employ a fixed bridge or removable denture to restore their ability to eat, speak clearly, and smile. Fixed bridges and removable dentures, however, are not the perfect solution and often bring with them a number of other problems. Removable dentures may slip or cause embarrassing clicking sounds while eating or speaking. The patient needs months if not years to get used to them. Of even greater concern, fixed bridges often affect adjacent healthy teeth while removable dentures lead to bone loss in the area where the tooth or teeth are missing. Recurrent decay, periodontal (gum) disease and other factors often doom fixed bridgework to early failure. For these reasons, fixed bridges and removable dentures usually need to be replaced several times over a lifetime.
Today the best option for patients who are missing permanent teeth is dental implants. Composed of titanium metal that “fuses” with the jawbone through a process called “osseointegration,” dental implants never slip or make embarrassing noises that advertise the fact that you have “false teeth,” and they never decay like teeth anchoring fixed bridges. Because dental implants fuse with the jawbone, bone loss is generally not a problem.
After more than 20 years of service, the vast majority of dental implants first placed by oral and maxillofacial surgeons in the United States continue to function at peak performance. More importantly, the recipients of those early dental implants are still satisfied they made the right choice. If properly cared for, dental implants can last a lifetime.
A dental implant designed to replace a single tooth is composed of three parts: the titanium implant that fuses with the jawbone; the abutment, which fits over the portion of the implant that protrudes from the gum line; and the crown, which is created by a prosthodontist and fitted onto the abutment for a natural appearance.