Scottsdale Dental Implants: The Best Way to Replace a Missing Tooth
Many people are missing a tooth or teeth. In fact, recent statistics from the American Dental Association show that 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. More than 35 million Americans are missing all of their teeth.
It’s sometimes tempting if you lose a single tooth to either severe decay or something like a sports injury to not replace it. It’s only a single tooth after all, right? The problem is this can lead to a variety of dental problems.
The solution is to replace the tooth with a dental implant. Dental implants are the best solution for replacing a single tooth or to anchor fixtures replacing multiple teeth such as partial dentures.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. That tooth may have already been missing or may need to be extracted due to extensive decay that precludes saving the tooth. Implants are actually named for the screw-shaped anchoring piece, the implant, which is made of titanium and is screwed down into the socket of the former tooth root. Once the implant is placed into the jawbone, the bone grows around it and integrates the implant into the jawbone naturally. A post is then attached and a false tooth atop it. Then the implant behaves exactly like a natural tooth.
Why should I bother to replace a missing tooth?
A missing tooth is more than just a gap in your teeth. Beyond the embarrassing look of a gap in your smile, a missing tooth can cause whistling when you speak. Also, missing molars can create problems with chewing, making the person avoid certain foods.
More important are two physical problems. When a tooth is missing, the adjacent teeth tend to slide over into the missing space because there is no longer any pressure keeping them in place. This creates serious bite and alignment problems.
Also, there is a tremendous amount of force applied downward into the jaw when biting and chewing. This bite force transfers energy through the tooth into the jawbone holding it. This energy stimulates the jawbone to continually regenerate; without this energy, the jawbone in that area begins to deteriorate and reabsorb.
Who is a good candidate for a dental implant?
Jawbone mass is the main factor when Dr. Wiitala decides if a person is right for an implant. As noted above, a missing tooth leads to jawbone mass loss in the bone beneath the missing tooth or teeth. If the person has left a missing tooth or teeth unattended for years, the bone loss in the jaw can dictate the need for jawbone grafting to build up the jawbone enough to support an implant.
For people with normal jawbone mass, however, virtually anyone of any age is a good candidate for an implant. Any other dental issues such as gum disease must be addressed prior to any implant procedure.
How is an implant placed?
The first step in the implant process is a consultation with Dr. Wiitala. He will perform a full oral exam and take a set of x-rays to determine your jawbone mass. Once he decides your jawbone is strong enough, he moves on to the implant placement, which has four steps.
- Placement — Dr. Wiitala places the titanium implant, which is shaped like a screw, into the socket of the former tooth root. A small amount of drilling may be required, but otherwise, the implant is screwed down into place.
- Osseointegration — Now we simply wait to let your jawbone grow around and accept the implant. This is called osseointegration and takes from three to six months.
- Abutment — When the jawbone has fully accepted the implant, you return and a small metal post called an abutment is attached to the implant. Your gum tissue is then allowed to heal around the abutment for approximately six more weeks.
- Crown — The final step is to attach the custom-made false tooth (crown) onto the abutment. We make the crown with our CEREC system, so it matches the color and shape of the surrounding teeth. Once this is placed the procedure is complete and you are ready to go. No recovery is needed.
Caring for your implant
Since an implant feels and functions exactly like a natural tooth, your care is no different. Simple brushing and flossing is all that is required. Of course, if decay was your original problem, you’ll need to step up your home hygiene routine.
How long do implants last?
Implant duration is tied to how well you care for them. But if you are attentive to your home hygiene and have twice-yearly professional cleanings and exams your implant can last the rest of your life.
Call the office of Dr. Eric Wiitala to schedule your consultation and see how dental implants can benefit you, 480-657-6981. You can also read more on dental implants and our other offered services on Eric Wiitala, DDS’s blog!