Dental Implants: A Better Choice in the Long Run

smiling couple dental implants

Missing teeth are a bummer. Not only do your appearance and self-esteem suffer, but lost teeth cause a cascade effect in your mouth; other teeth move, your bite becomes misaligned, and your jaw starts to deteriorate at the site of the empty sockets. There are several methods of replacing missing or decayed teeth, some of which require oral surgery, some of which don’t.

While dentures and bridges are the most affordable and least-invasive options for restoring your smile, they come with caveats. Dentures will eventually stop fitting correctly as your jaw continues to shrink, and bridges also need refitted over time. These options replace the look and function of your smile, but not the biological function of the missing tooth/teeth.

Dental implants are widely regarded as the most comprehensive way of reconstructing a mouth, as the implant itself sits in the jaw, preventing it from breaking down and other teeth from shifting or becoming loose.

Dental implants aren’t for everyone. They can be expensive, the process can be complicated, and you need a certain level of jaw integrity in order to take them. Dental implants require a commitment to good oral hygiene, and they are sometimes not recommended for people with certain medical conditions such as diabetes or cancer. But compared to alternatives like dentures and bridges, dental implants are often the best choice over the long run.

They feel like natural teeth.

Once you have healed from the surgical procedures involved in placing the implants, you can forget they are not your natural teeth. They look and feel like natural teeth, and are as easy to care for. Dental implants, unlike bridges and dentures, function just like the teeth you lost. There is no discomfort. They don’t slip when you bite or chew, are not subject to decay, and don’t put stress on adjacent teeth the way bridges can.

They preserve bone and facial structure.

Implants not only restore your smile and ability to speak and eat normally, they also preserve your jawbone and facial structure, and prevent adjacent teeth from shifting (which can alter your bite). Because dental implants mesh with your jawbone, you are not at risk of bone loss as you can be with dentures and bridges.

They are cost-effective long-term.

When you take into account that dental implants can last a lifetime with adequate brushing, flossing, and twice-yearly dental check-ups, they are not much more expensive than alternatives. The upfront costs of dental implant surgery are significant, as are the time costs – the process from the initial tooth extraction to implant installation to crown installation can take up to a year, especially if you needed a bit of jaw bone grafting in there, too.

But the longevity of dental implants is where the real magic is. The implant itself can last a lifetime if it integrates with the bone correctly and you stay on top of your oral care. The crown (the false tooth part of the three-part implant) may need to be replaced after 10-15 years, but the implant itself will probably never need replaced. In contrast, dentures will stop fitting and need be replaced every 5-8 years, and dental bridges last only 5-15 years.

Being able to forget about the implant has value as well. With the ease of care, implants ‘cost’ less of your time and take less effort to keep clean.

The cost – as well as the process – depends on your needs. When you come to Wilmington Oral Surgery to discuss getting dental implants, we conduct a brief exam, take x-rays, and ask questions to determine a plan and what the fees will be. We can discuss our new reduced fees, how we submit your bills to your insurance, and go over other payment options to set your mind at ease about affordability.

The technology keeps getting better and better.

As implant technologies have become more sophisticated, the pain involved has been greatly reduced. Today, computer-assisted planning before implant surgery results in more efficient implant placement, less patient discomfort, a reduced or eliminated need for bone grafting, and an easier recovery. With proper sedation and adherence to home instructions, many patients return to work and regular activities the next day.

Dental implants have been used for half a century and are safe. Now, patients also have the option of choosing zirconia ceramic implants over titanium; a great option for those with severe metal allergies. As with any medical procedure, however, there can be complications. However, most of the complications are indications that you haven’t been taking proper care of your body and your mouth. Before surgery, we will review your health history and any habits which could affect the success of your implants — such as smoking — so you are fully informed about the risks and benefits.

It doesn’t have to be a long process.

In many cases, we can remove teeth, place the implants, and deliver the fixed prostheses in a single treatment visit. (Two to four appointments are needed prior to the day of surgery). The standard process for a dental implant installation is extraction, bone grafting, healing time, implantation, healing time, crown installation, healing time.

With same-day dental implants, we perform the implant and crown installation at the same time, so when you leave our office you’ve got the tooth replaced just like that. This way of doing dental implant surgery results in faster healing time and effective osseointegration, and it’s also less traumatizing for your gums.

If your jaw has stopped growing, you have good bone density, you practice good oral hygiene and have good gum health, and are willing to commit to after-surgery recommendations such as not smoking or drinking alcohol during healing, you are probably a good candidate for one-day dental implants.

If you are considering any kind of dental implant, whether as a tooth replacement or to anchor dentures or a bridge, a brief exam, interview and x-rays at Wilmington Oral Surgery will be able to determine whether you are now or can become a good candidate. Dental implants are the most effective way to restore your mouth health long-term, and we make sure our patients have every opportunity to become eligible for them.