The best solution for tooth replacement is a dental implant. An implant is made of titanium, and screws into the jaw bone. After a period of healing, (osseointegration), an abutment is screwed onto the implant, and a zirconium crown is fixed in place. No denture, or bridge, but an implant, that feels almost exactly as a regular tooth. But not every person is a candidate for dental implants.
To better understand if you are a candidate, we need to discuss the process. If you have suffered a lot of bone loss, from periodontal disease, you may not have enough bone to hold enough implants for a fixed dental device. When a patient comes in, we first must do a physical oral evaluation, and then do a CT scan. A CT scan shows us a 3-dimensional image of the bone structure, the location of the nerves, and the bone density. With this the dentist will know where to place the dental implants. Also, with a CT scan, a dental surgical guide, or templet can be made, to aid with maximum effective implant placement.
Sometimes, it is necessary to do bone grafting to have enough bone available. If teeth are having to be extracted, the dentist may have to place bone grafts at the sites of the extraction, to fill in the voids where the roots used to be. Also, if you have been missing teeth for many years, in those locations, the bone loss may require a bone graft to build up the bone to create enough depth, or width, to hold an implant. In the case of the upper jaw, a sinus lift may be needed to create the needed depth for implant placement.
In some cases, an implant can be placed immediately in the site where a bone graft is placed, because, although more bone is needed, there is enough bone present to hold the implant stable, while the graft heals and solidifies. This can save some time during the healing process to shorten period before activation of the implant. The rule of thumb is 4 to 6 months after bone grafting, before the implant can be placed, and another 4 to 5 months before the implant can be activated. Although there is a type of implant called an” immediate load implant”, it can’t be effectively placed where there are bone grafts, because the pressure on the implant, while chewing, will cause rapid bone loss again, and the implant will fail.
If you are a candidate for tooth replacement with a dental implant, one benefit is bone retention. The absence of a tooth root will cause the bone to melt away, in time. This is because the tooth root stimulates the bone tissue to regenerate. With no tooth in the area, the bone begins to dissolve away creating an area with bone loss. The presence of an implant will act like a tooth, stimulating the bone to continuously regenerate. This is the main reason that an implant is the best option for tooth replacement.