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All About Dental Implants
Normandy Park, WA

Tooth loss can happen as a result of some different reasons – gum disease, tooth decay (cavities), oral trauma. No matter how it happens, missing teeth have a significant impact on your life. Things you once used to do with ease, such as eating and speaking, quickly become a major challenge. Empty spaces in your mouth affect your smile. This can quickly turn even the most confident person self-conscious. Tooth loss also causes bone loss in your jaw, which can then cause the healthy teeth that remain to shift out of their natural positions. As a result, your bite is thrown off, which can cause serious dental health problems like grinding, uneven tooth wear, and severe jaw pain (a condition known as a temporomandibular disorder). Even losing just one tooth can have serious consequences on your quality of life. At Watermark Dentistry, it is our goal to restore your oral health, your smile, and your quality of life. We can achieve this goal with dental implants.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants have become the most popular options for replacing missing teeth, preferred by both dentists and patients alike. They are a fairly recent addition to your available options, and they consist of three major parts:
•  The implant. The implant is a small titanium rod that is surgically placed into your jawbone. It relies on a process known as osseointegration, or the fusion of your natural jawbone to the implant. This turns the implant into a stable root that is then used to support your replacement teeth.
•  Abutment. The abutment is the connector. It is placed on the top of the implants and connects the crown to the implant.
•  The crown. The crown is your replacement tooth. It is typically made from ceramic. This material can mimic many of the properties of your natural tooth enamel, including its color and its ability to reflect light, which then provides you with a much more natural appearance.

A Brief History

It is commonly believed that dental implants are only a fairly recent solution for missing teeth. While the ones we know and use today are a result of modern discoveries, research, and development, dental implants have been used centuries. In fact, one of the earliest known dental implants dates all the way back to 600 AD. An implant made of carved stone and seashell was found in the mandible of a young woman. Even more interesting was that her natural bone had begun to fuse to the restoration.

This was only one of the instances of ancient dental implants. Archaeologists have found several other types of tooth replacement all over the world. Egyptian mummies have been discovered with gold wire in their jaws. There have been skeletons found in the Middle East that have ivory in their jaws in place of natural teeth. There has even been a Roman soldier found with iron used to replace a missing tooth.

Modern dental implants got their start in the 1960s. Their discovery was completely accidental. It all started with the work of the Swedish orthopedic surgeon, Per-Ingvar Brånenmark. He was researching bone healing and regeneration. In 1952, he attempted to remove a titanium cylinder that had been placed in the femur of a rabbit. Instead, he found that the bone had fused to the titanium. This discovery spurred further research and development, using both animal and human subjects. In 1965, he successfully placed the first dental implant.

Brånenmark’s placement of dental implants was not the end of research and development. Even today, developments are still being made to improve their design and reliability. For instance, the first modern dental implants were only available in different lengths, but their circumference was the same. Now, implants are available in both different lengths and different circumferences, enabling them to be used to suit a variety of different needs. Today’s implants also have a rougher texture, where they used to be smooth. With this texture, it is easier for your bone to fuse with the implant, making them more stable. There is even research being conducted to find alternative materials. One of the most promising materials that have been found is Zirconia.

Implants for All Needs

Everyone’s tooth replacement needs are different. Traditionally, depending on your situation, you were limited to one option – a bridge, a partial denture, or a full denture. Dental implants are different. They are highly customizable and can be used to fit a variety of different needs. There are several types of dental implants:
•  Single tooth implants. As the name suggests, single tooth implants are used to replace a single missing tooth. One implant is placed in your jaw and is used to support a single crown.
•  Multiple tooth implants. Multiple tooth implants are also commonly referred to as implant supported bridges. They are used to replace two or more consecutive teeth, providing an alternative to bridges and partial dentures. One or more dental implants are placed in the jaw and support your section of replacement teeth.
•  Implant supported dentures. An implant supported denture is an alternative to a traditional denture and is used to replace an entire arch of missing teeth. Typically, 6 to 8 implants are placed into your jawbone to support your replacement teeth.
•  All-on-4. All-on-4 dental implants is a treatment concept designed to provide dental implants for individuals who have suffered too much bone loss to support the 6 to 8 implants necessary for an implant supported a denture. Without sufficient bone mass, your jaw cannot successfully support the implants, and your risk of implant failure drastically increases. A jawbone that is too weak used to mean that you would receive dentures. Today, however, you have other options. One option is a surgical procedure known as a bone graft. This procedure takes bone mass from elsewhere in your body (or from a donor) to restore the strength of your jaw. Your other option is the All-on-4 treatment concept. This treatment enables you to avoid two surgeries. Instead of 6 to 8 implants, your replacement teeth are supported by four strategically placed implants. Two are inserted vertically in the front of your jaw, where there is naturally more bone mass. The other two implants are placed at the back of the jaw and are inserted at a 45-degree angle. This angle maximizes contact between the implants and the bone.

Are you a Candidate?

Dental implants are one of the most popular methods for replacing missing teeth. Moreover, while they can be used to suit a vast number of different needs, it is still important that you have a consultation to figure out whether or not they are truly the best solution for your specific situation. There are a few different things that can help you to determine whether or not you may be an ideal candidate:
•  You are missing one or more teeth. Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth. Therefore, missing one or more teeth is one of the most obvious factors that can determine your eligibility for the procedure. They may also be discussed as an option if you know that you will need to have teeth extracted and then replaced.
•  You are healthy. Dental implants require a surgical procedure that can involve a lengthy healing process. To heal properly, you need to be in good overall health. Any oral health issues, such as gum disease, will need to be treated before you can undergo surgery. If you have any chronic health conditions, such as diabetes or heart disease, your conditions must be under control.
•  You are a non-smoker (or are willing to quit). Health is not the only factor that can play a role in your ability to heal. If you are a smoker or use any tobacco product, this habit can greatly impede your ability to heal. Smoking restricts blood flow and limits oxygen in the blood. Not only does it slow your ability to heal, but smoking also increases your risk for infections (including a condition known as a dry socket), and increases your likelihood of implant failure.
•  Your jaw is in good condition. When you lose your teeth, even just one, your jaw naturally begins to lose bone mass. The more bone mass you lose, the weaker your jaw becomes. This also means less bone mass for osseointegration, which is crucial for the stability and success of implants. A weak jawbone does not automatically disqualify you from implants. Options like bone grafts and the All-on-4 treatment concept may be discussed.
•  You are over a certain age. There are many tooth loss patients who believe they are too old for dental implants. The truth is that you are never too old for implants (provided you meet the rest of the necessary qualifications). You can, however, be too young. The jaws of children and teens are still developing and growing. Placing an implant in an underdeveloped jaw can stunt development and lead to several issues. If your child has lost a permanent tooth, other options will need to be explored until they are old enough for a dental implant.

The Implant Process

The dental implant process involves a surgical procedure. Before undergoing surgery, a consultation is first done. During your consultation, we thoroughly inspect your mouth and take X-rays. If implants do indeed seem like an ideal solution for you, your X-rays are then used to design your custom treatment plan.

On the day of surgery, we begin by administering a local anesthetic. Sedation may also be used as well. We then make incisions in your gums, exposing the jawbone underneath. Holes are drilled into the bone, and the implants are inserted. Next, we suture your gums around the implants, leaving a small amount exposed above the tissue. Finally, temporary teeth are placed, and you are sent home to heal.

Healing can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months, depending on the number of implants placed. You will be provided with a set of aftercare instructions, which will inform you of what to expect as you heal and how you can deal with common postsurgical issues like pain and swelling. As you heal, we will monitor your progress, making sure that your jawbone is properly fusing with your implants.

Once you have fully healed, we then begin the procedure for outfitting you with your permanent replacement teeth. This takes two visits. During your first visit, we remove your temporary teeth and place the abutments. Impressions are taken from your mouth, which is then sent to the lab. There, your teeth are designed and created. It can take up to two weeks for them to be finished, so your temporary teeth are replaced while you wait. Once they are ready, we set your new teeth in place and secure them with screws.

Do Implants Require Special Care?

Dental implants do not require any special care. They can, and should, be cared for just like your natural teeth. They should be brushed twice a day and flossed daily. Even though ceramic does not experience decay and cavities, it still can collect plaque and bacteria, both of which can contribute to gum disease (which can then lead to implant failure). You should also maintain regular dental visits twice a year for cleanings and exams, even if all of your teeth have been replaced. During these visits, your ceramic teeth are cleaned, along with your natural teeth, and they are inspected for damage. If the ceramic is chipped, cracked, or otherwise damaged, we can remove your replacement teeth, perform repairs, and replace them.

Reap the Benefits of Dental Implants

Dental implants offer numerous benefits:
•  Natural appearance. While dentures have come a long way, and look much more natural than their older counterparts, the base your replacement teeth are set in is still visible and may be noticeable. With dental implants, there is no base. Instead, your new teeth blend into your gums, and the tissue forms around them as it would with your natural teeth.
•  Permanence. Your teeth are secured in place with screws and are not meant to be removed unless they need maintenance. Also, because of the nature of dental implants, your replacement teeth do not need to be periodically replaced like other traditional tooth replacement options.
•  Greater comfort. Dentures rest directly on your gums, putting pressure on the tissue. They can also move around in your mouth, which can lead to painful denture sores. With dental implants, your replacement teeth are supported by the titanium rods.
•  Improved speech. Implants restore your ability to speak properly. Your teeth are secured firmly in place, and you do not have to worry about them slipping out of place (which can cause a lisp). As a bonus, you do not have to get used to a foreign object in your mouth.
•  Improved eating. Implants also improve your ability to bite and chew your favorite foods. Moreover, because your teeth do not shift, your digestion and nutrition are improved.
•  Your jaw remains strong and healthy. While all tooth replacement options restore the functions of your teeth, traditional methods cannot stop the bone loss that accompanies tooth loss. Dental implants are different. The titanium rods inserted into you jawbone mimic the roots of your natural teeth and stimulate your jawbone. As a result, your jaw remains healthy and strong.

Dental implants not only restore your smile, but they also restore your oral health, your quality of life, and your confidence. To find out if you are a candidate for dental implants, contact Watermark Dentistry to schedule your consultation today.

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