If you need to replace one or more missing teeth, you may have heard rave reviews of dental implants as the state-of-the-art treatment in tooth restoration technology. Before you run to your nearest oral surgeon to have this procedure performed, however, you need to understand it well enough that you can make some smart decisions about your dental implantation needs. Here are a few important considerations to get you started along the right path to a beautiful new smile.
Dental Implants vs. Other Tooth Restoration Options
Dental implants have upstaged traditional bridges and dentures as many patients' preferred means of tooth restoration, and for good reason. By implanting metal posts in the jaw to serve as "roots" for permanent crowns or denture plates, your oral surgeon can give you strong, sturdy dental restorations that never slip or fall out. The metal posts help to prevent loss of bone in the jaw, while the crowns can be brushed and flossed just like normal teeth. But even with all of these advantages, dental implants aren't necessarily for everyone. If you have insufficient bone density to hold an implant, for instance, and you don't care to undergo bone grafting to correct the problem, you might be happier going with less permanent solutions. This may also prove the case if you don't have the patience to put up with the 6 months or longer required to complete the entire dental implant procedure.
Traditional Implants vs. Mini-Implants
Some people who suffer from diminished jawbone density may find that they can still receive mini-implants instead of traditional implants. True to their name, mini-implants are much smaller than conventional dental implants, so they can be set into a smaller amount of supporting bone. They also cost less than traditional implants. The downsides of mini-implants include the fact that two mini-implant posts are needed where one traditional post would usually suffice (possibly leading to longer recovery times) and the extra stress on the bone caused by less-than-ideal chewing pressure distribution.
All-on-4, All-on-6, or All-on-8?
If you need to replace a whole row of teeth, you'll be delighted to learn that a few dental implants can support an entire upper or lower denture with much more security and functionality than you might expect from removable dentures. (In fact, you can even ask for removal implants that snap onto the metal posts in your jaw.) The main question is how many implants you should receive to support your denture. An all-on-4 denture is anchored to just 4 posts on the upper or lower jaw; this approach is cost-effective but places more stress on each implant post. All-on-6 dentures distribute the stress more evenly across 6 posts, but they also call for greater bone dentistry than the all-on-4 method. All-on-8 dentures offer the greatest stability and most even stress distribution of all, but they require even greater bone density than all-on-4 dentures as well as costing more than other options.
As you can see, a dental implant procedure deserves careful consideration and forethought -- but now you have some good questions to help you clarify your needs, goals, and expectations. Ask your dentist about how to choose the ideal tooth restorations for your individual dental condition, bone density, timetable, and budget!