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Understanding Dental Implants

Am I a candidate for dental implants?

Generally speaking, if you have a missing tooth, have several missing teeth or have no teeth at all, you are a candidate for dental implants. It is important that you are in good health, however, as there are some conditions and diseases that can affect whether dental implants are right for you. For example, uncontrolled diabetes, cancer or radiation to the jaws may affect whether dental implants will fuse to your bone. It is important to let Dr. Andow know all about your medical status (past and present) together with all medications you are taking, whether prescribed, alternative (herbal) or over-the-counter.

Where and how implants are placed requires a detailed assessment of your overall stomato-gnathic system (“stoma” – mouth; “gnathic” – jaws), within which the teeth function. This will necessitate compiling records that include study models of your mouth and bite, and specialized radiographs (x-rays), which will include 3D scans known as cone beam computed tomograms (CBCT). Planning with the help of computer imaging ensures that dental implants can be placed in exactly the right position in your jaw.

How and why is bone lost when teeth are lost?

Bone needs stimulation to maintain its form and density. In the case of the bone that surrounds and supports teeth (called alveolar bone), the necessary stimulation comes from the teeth themselves. When a tooth is lost, the lack of stimulation causes the loss of this bone. There is a 25% decrease in width of bone during the first year after tooth loss and an overall decrease in height over the next few years.

The more teeth lost, the more function lost. This leads to some particularly serious aesthetic and functional problems, particularly in people who have lost all of their teeth. And it doesn’t stop there. After alveolar bone is lost, the bone beneath it, basal bone — the jawbone proper — also begins to resorb (melt away).

How can bone be preserved or re-grown to support dental implants?

Grafting bone into the extraction sockets at the time of tooth loss or removal can help preserve bone volume needed for implant placement. Surgical techniques are also available to regenerate (re-grow) bone that has been lost, to provide the necessary bone substance for anchoring implants. In fact, a primary reason to consider dental implants to replace missing teeth is the maintenance of jawbone.

Bone needs stimulation to stay healthy. Because dental implants fuse to the bone, they stabilize it and prevent further bone loss. Resorption is a normal and inevitable process in which bone is lost when it is no longer supporting or connected to teeth. Only dental implants can stop this process and preserve the bone.

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