Over the years even the most carefully tended teeth can deteriorate. We produce less saliva as we age, which makes it harder for our mouths to keep bacteria moving along.
We are at greater risk for infection, decay and gum disease. We can end up with gums that are swollen or that bleed. We are prone to cavities, teeth loosening and falling out.
It's tough to lose your teeth. But there are more options now than there used to be when it comes to replacing missing teeth.
Dental implant surgery replaces teeth or teeth that are missing or damaged in a permanent way. Unlike bridgework or dentures, implants are fastened in your jaw surgically, to serve as the foundation for your new artificial teeth.
After surgery, the bone needs months to heal around the implants, ultimately fusing with the bone. Though this takes so much time, it may be worth it to you in the long run because your teeth won't slip or damage the bone like dentures or bridgework can do.
Dental implant surgery does not generally require an overnight stay at a hospital. It is often performed in either a hospital or a dental office as an outpatient procedure.
The gum will be cut so that the underlying bone is exposed. Holes will then be drilled for the cylinder which will be the tooth root.
A process called osseointegration will take place after the cylinder has been surgically implanted. The bone of your jaw will grow around into the implant's surface. It is a slow process but the results are secure, and makes a base for the new teeth.
An abutment will be added either at the time of the first surgery or after the osseointegration stage is complete. The abutment becomes attached to the implant.
After more time to heal, the tooth is attached. Later, impressions will be made of your mouth and will be used to make a crown for your tooth, which will look just like a real tooth.
If you choose to have a removable implant prosthesis, you'll be able to take your teeth out to clean them or if any repairs need to be performed. This is similar to having old-fashioned dentures, with artificial teeth in a plastic gum.
The difference is that instead of sitting on your own gums, these can be snapped into place and won't slip around.
If you choose a fixed implant prosthesis the tooth is permanently fixed either by cementing or screwing it into place on an implant abutment.
If you have any missing teeth and have no health conditions that would cause problems you may be a candidate for dental implants.
Your jawbone must be done growing and you must have sufficient bone for the implants or be willing to have a bone graft if the present bone is not enough.
If all this sounds like it could be expensive, it can. Dental implant surgery may not be covered by insurance.
An article on the New York Times website said that one implant can cost between $3000 and $4500. A partial or full set of dental implants may cost between $20,000 and $45,000.
Getting dental implants isn't cheap or fast, and going through the different stages is far from convenient. But if a new permanent tooth or set of teeth is what you want, dental implants may be the solution for you.
Dental Health Information for Women Over Fifty. Healthy-aging-for-women-babyboomers.com. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
Dental implant surgery. Mayoclinic.com. Retrieved August 30, 2012.
For Most, Implants Beat Dentures, but at a Price
Reviewed August 31, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN