If you have lost one or more teeth, dental implants are a great tooth replacement option. They look natural, function like natural teeth, and, like natural teeth, they can last a lifetime. (Though, obviously, like natural teeth, they don’t always.) But there’s a big difference for dental implants, compared to your natural teeth: your jaw is very different than it used to be.
Fortunately, we have ways to overcome the challenges that face dental implants being placed in older jaws.
A Crowded Place
Perhaps the biggest similarity in the jaw is that it’s a very crowded place. Ideally, as teeth move in when you’re a child or teen, there should be plenty of room. The jaw should have enough space for all your teeth, and your adult teeth should have a space prepared for them by your baby teeth. But it doesn’t always work out that way, especially for wisdom teeth.
If your teeth are very crowded, it might be hard for us to find enough room for your dental implants. If the dental arch is particularly crowded, we might recommend orthodontics to make room before you get an implant.
This is, of course, not an issue if you’re getting implants to replace an entire arch of teeth (like implant dentures).
Damage and Disease
One big difference for dental implants is that they have to move into a place where a tooth made an untimely departure. This can mean that the site is not exactly fit for a new tooth.
Gum disease is the leading cause of tooth loss among adults in the US. It’s also the leading cause of dental implant failure after the first year. The good news is that we know how to beat it. It’s just a question of time and care.
During your consultation, we will evaluate the site where your natural tooth or teeth are being removed. If you have gum disease, we might start treatment right away, even if we can’t save your natural tooth. We want to try to make the site as fit for the new teeth as possible. We’ll also let you know if gum disease is bad enough that it needs to be completely treated before placing your dental implants. If that’s the case, we might have to postpone placing your implants.
Sometimes, other diseases may impact the fitness of your jaw, too. Once concern is osteoporosis, or, more precisely, osteoporosis medication. This medication has been linked to rare but serious complications of dental implant surgery, called osteonecrosis of the jaw. Truthfully, though, the condition isn’t limited to people with dental implants. In fact, a new study showed that more cases are linked to ill-fitting dentures than implants. Conditions like diabetes that may affect your oral health can also impact your dental implants.
Not as Much Jaw as There Used to Be
Another major difference for dental implants is that there might not be as much jawbone as there used to be. Our jaw reaches maximum size and density when we’re young adults and can begin to diminish as we get older. This process accelerates when you lose teeth. If you aren’t getting plants placed right when you have your teeth extracted, it’s more likely that there won’t be enough jawbone to support dental implants.
Fortunately, bone grafts can restore lost jawbone so there will be enough to support your implants. Often we can do this when we place your implants. Other times, we use precisely engineered techniques that maximize support from existing bone. But sometimes, we might have to do a separate bone grafting procedure.
New Teeth Can Rejuvenate an Old Jaw
The good news is that dental implants can actually help restore some youthful characteristics to your jaw. Dental implants can improve the density of bone in your jaw and slow the loss of bone.
Plus, your smile can look more youthful, too.
To learn how new teeth can benefit your old (or even not-so-old) jaw, please call (314) 678-7876 today for an appointment with a St. Louis implant dentist at City Smiles, with offices downtown and in Clayton.