About 70 percent of the adult population in the United States has at least one missing tooth, and the field of dentistry has devoted itself to finding solutions for replacing lost teeth, restoring comfort and oral function, and improving patients’ physical appearance following tooth loss.
Restoring oral function becomes more difficult as more teeth are lost, and the risk of developing periodontal disease, as well as ensuring bone loss, is truly the most serious health condition caused by the loss of teeth.
Fortunately, bone loss after loss of teeth may be prevented by the insertion of dental implants.
Why does losing teeth cause bone loss?
Bone tissue is strengthened by regular applied pressure, which stimulates the tissue to regenerate and maintain its density and strength. In the mouth, the alveolar bone, located just beneath the gum tissue, supports the teeth and requires ongoing stimulation. This stimulation is provided by the act of chewing, and when the upper and lower teeth make random contact with one another, such as when the mouth is closed, or when one smiles. This constant, regular pressure triggers the bone tissue to regenerate and grow stronger.
Once a tooth is lost, a gradual decrease of bone density occurs in the alveolar bone in the affected area. In fact, it is not uncommon to see a 25% loss of width and a decrease of about 4 millimeters in bone height within a few years of tooth loss.
As the alveolar bone loses its strength and density, the basal or jaw bone, which provides the bony structure of the entire lower face, begins to also weaken, leading to a structural collapse in the face that causes sagging of the soft tissue. While this is worrisome for those concerned with their appearance, the more serious impact of this is the fact that it may affect your ability to chew properly.
How do Dental Implants compare to a fixed bridge?
The Fixed Pontic Denture (FPD) or fixed bridge has been the most common treatment for tooth replacement over the past six decades. This solution uses the two teeth adjacent to the tooth gap as abutment teeth to support the attachment of a crown or bridge. Sometimes referred to as a false replacement, an FPD may improve both appearance and oral function. But while this treatment may initially appear less costly than dental implants, an FPD won’t last as long as dental implants, and can become much costlier over time, as the prosthesis must be replaced over the course of the patient’s lifetime. An FPD may last as long as 10 to 15 years in most patients, while research has shown that over 99% of implants remain functional over a minimum period of 10 years, with many implants lasting for the patient’s entire lifetime. Conversely, FPDs have a failure rate of about 20% after 3 years, and about 50% of FPDs fail after 10 years.
Other problems associated with FPDs occur when the abutment teeth used to support the fixed bridge become weakened or damaged over time, as a result of tooth decay and/or stress fractures. In many cases, FPDs will require replacement or modification over the patient’s lifetime.
What are Dental Implants made of?
Dental implants are tiny screws made of titanium, a unique material used in medical applications that is fully biocompatible with human bone, allowing it to integrate into the bone itself through the process of osseointegration, building stronger bone tissue. The implant is screwed into the patient’s bone to replace the root of the lost tooth, then covered by a crown that may be removed and replaced if it should become damaged, leaving the implant unaffected.
Dental implants provide superior protection against tooth decay and periodontal disease, due to the fact that they are rooted in place just like natural teeth, making oral hygiene easier. Dental implants also leave the adjacent teeth unharmed, since no abutment teeth are required for this procedure.
Dental Implants versus Removable Dentures
For patients who have lost multiple teeth, dental implants also offer a superior option over the traditional use of removable full or partial dentures.
According to a recent survey conducted in the U.S., adults 60 and over are typically missing an average of 9 teeth, and about 17% of the adult U.S. population is missing at least one full arch of teeth. As life expectancy increases and the number of senior citizens rises, some 37.9 million adults will be missing at least one arch of teeth from their mouths and seeking tooth replacement solutions.
In the past, most of these patients would traditionally be fitted with removable dentures. But today, dentists are becoming more aware that removable dentures actually contribute to bone loss acceleration by exerting undue pressure on the bone surface, damaging gum tissue and oral membranes, reducing blood and oxygen supply to the gums and bone, and decreasing stimulation to the underlying bone tissue. The problem worsens as bone loss advances, causing dentures tend to fit even more loosely, which exacerbates all of these problems.
Newer options, such as a dental implant bridge, can provide significant improvement as far as comfort, function, and appearance for these patients. By eliminating the use of abutment teeth, implants prevent damage to adjacent teeth and have been proven to provide more than twenty times more protection against bone loss than removable dentures. They also provide far greater comfort and improved function. While removable dentures may restore function to about one-sixth of what is considered normal, dental implants can full oral function, because they look, feel, and work just like one’s natural teeth.
A fixed bridge using dental implants is considered the ideal tooth loss replacement solution for most patients suffering from tooth loss. But, if cost makes this option unaffordable for some, even the use of a removable partial denture anchored onto dental implants can ensure a more comfortable fit and provide better protection against bone loss.
For many patients who make the switch from dentures to dental implants, the result is also an improved diet, as they will no longer need to avoid certain foods, including such things as salads, nuts, and crunchy raw veggies that provide the proper stimulation for the underlying bone tissue.
Dental implants also improve patient confidence and self-esteem, once the worry and embarrassment of loose-fitting dentures is eliminated. In fact, most implant patients report a significant rise in their quality of life after receiving dental implants.
If you’d like to know more about how dental implants can impact your quality of life and prevent you from dangerous bone loss, contact Thornton Town Center Family Dental in Thornton, CO. Our friendly and experienced dentists are happy to serve you with the latest and most advanced technology in dental implants.