HEALTHY MOUTH TIPS
Why Dental Implants are the Best Option for Tooth Loss
Maintaining healthy gums and teeth is essential to good health and a positive self-esteem, not only for the purpose of maintaining healthy oral function, such as chewing and speaking, but also to mitigate the risk of advanced periodontal disease and bone loss. Bone loss in the lower jaw is a serious problem that can cause a slew of oral and general health problems, as well as contributing to an aged appearance due to the collapse of the bone tissue that supports the structure of the lower face.
Fortunately, new technology exists that utilizes dental implants to restore proper oral and jaw function, as well as improving the patient’s physical appearance. In the South Bay area of California, including Palos Verdes, Carson and Hawthorne, as well as nearby communities, Dr. Steve S. Kim, a dental implant dentist who specialized in Prosthodontics at Boston University’s Goldman School of Dentistry, provides top-quality dental implants for local residents.
How do Bones and Teeth stay Healthy?
In order to remain healthy and strong, bone tissue requires continuous pressure and stimulation, which is typically achieved when a patient has a healthy, normal bite with every tooth properly in place. This stimulation is normally provided by normal oral function such as chewing, as well as normal, random contact between the upper and lower teeth that occurs fleetingly over the course of each day.
This stimulation, delivered through the periodontal ligament that attaches teeth to the underlying bone structure, triggers the alveolar bone, a sac-like structure surrounding each tooth, to regenerate tissue and remain healthy and dense. This ongoing pressure also stimulates the underlying bone tissue to constantly rebuild itself.
What Happens when a Tooth is Lost?
Once a tooth is lost, the system that maintains healthy bone structure is immediately affected, as the reduction of bone stimulation begins to cause a gradual reduction of bone density in both the alveolar and the basal bone structure, or jawbone.
Many patients have experienced as much as a 25% reduction in the width of the alveolar bone within the first year after losing a tooth, and a reduction in bone height of about 4 millimeters in the few years following the tooth loss.
Once the density of the alveolar bone is reduced, the basal or jawbone also becomes affected, resulting in a collapse of the upper and lower jaw structure, which and causing the soft tissue in the face to appear lax and sunken, with sagging jowls and a drooping appearance in the lower face. The surrounding gum tissue is also affected by receding bone, and gums will begins to recede as well, creating a sunken and drawn appearance in the mouth, with teeth appearing to look longer as their roots begin to show. This in turn leads to loosening of the teeth, further tooth loss, and a vicious cycle that can quickly escalate.
Recent surveys have reported that approximately 70 percent of adults in the U.S. are missing a minimum of one tooth, with a majority of those over the age 60 reporting a minimum of 9 lost teeth, and some 30 million reporting at least one full arch of teeth missing. As the population of senior citizens in the U.S. increases, the number of adults missing at least one full arch of teeth is expected to jump to about 38 million by 2020.
For decades, the only tooth replacement options available for patients with missing teeth were the Fixed Pontic Denture (FPD), also referred to as a ‘fixed bridge’ or ‘false replacement,’ or the use of removable full or partial dentures. Neither of these treatments offers the benefits that dental implants offer.
Replacing Lost Teeth with a Fixed Bridge
FPDs have been the most commonly used treatment for people who are missing one or a few teeth. An FPD or fixed bridge is typically secured in place by utilizing the adjacent teeth on either side of the gap as abutment teeth. A crown and/or bridge may be crafted to replace the missing tooth or teeth, and attached to the abutment teeth. This solution provides improvements to the facial appearance as well as restoring speaking and chewing function.
An FPD may last from 10 to 15 years, but problems may develop with FPDs over time, causing the need to have them replaced or modified several times during the = patient’s lifetime. Because FPDs rely on the strength of the adjacent abutment teeth, the pressure applied to these teeth may cause them to become weaker over time, as well as becoming more prone to tooth decay or microscopic fractures.
While 20 percent of FPDs fail after 3 years of use, and some 50% of FPDs will fail after 10 years, over 99 percent of implants last a minimum of 10 years, and in many cases, for the remainder of the patient’s life, making dental implants more cost-effective than fixed bridges over the long-term.
Removable Full or Partial Dentures
Dentists around the world have used removable dentures for decades, to improve a patient’s physical appearance and restore some degree of normal oral function. Removable dentures, however, fail to protect against bone loss. In fact, when dentures fit too loosely, slipping and shifting constantly in the mouth, they may actually contribute to accelerated bone loss by transferring crucial pressure from the underlying bone structure to the bone surface, which gradually wears away bone tissue, while also wearing down the gums and oral membranes. As more bone is gradually lost, dentures tend to fit more loosely, reducing blood supply to the gums, and weakening rather than properly stimulating the underlying bone structure by transferring the needed pressure to the wrong areas. Additionally, patients who wear removable dentures often report a reduction in normal oral function and the need to avoid hard or chewy foods.
Dental implants are about twenty times more effective at preventing the development of underlying bone loss than removable full or partial dentures, since they behave like natural teeth, applying ongoing daily pressure on the basal bone tissue, while the titanium also strengthens and reinforces the bone.
How Dental Implants Prevent Further Bone Loss
Dental implants provide a much more effective, attractive, and healthy alternative to removable dentures as well as false replacements.
Dental implants are screws made of titanium, a biocompatible material that easily fuses with human bone tissue, that are attached to the supporting bone structure to provide support and strength to the alveolar bone as well as the basal bone structure. These screws are then covered with a porcelain or ceramic crown that may be removed and replaced if ever necessary, without affecting the implant itself.
Because dental implants are screwed directly into bone, they don’t require the use of abutment teeth, leaving adjacent teeth intact, which reduces the risk of buildup of harmful oral bacteria around those teeth, which can also lead to periodontal disease and further bone loss.
Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, or multiple teeth. Even patients who need to replace the entire upper or lower arch of teeth may improve their oral health and appearance with dental implants.
Combining Dental Implants with Other Options
A dental implant bridge may be constructed by using implants instead of abutment teeth to replace missing teeth. Another option would be to use implants as anchors onto which a removable partial denture may be attached to ensure a tighter and better fit, while also transferring needed pressure to the underlying bone structure, providing increased comfort, and restoring normal oral function. Dental implants look and feel more natural because they look and behave like natural teeth.
Fortunately, today’s implant dentistry provides more effective and longer lasting tooth replacement options than ever before. Dental implants can restore almost 100% of normal, healthy, oral function, which contributes to improved overall health.
If you live in the South Bay area of California, and want to experience the best in state-of-the-art dental care, as well as a dentist with extensive expertise and experience in the area of dental implants, contact Dr. Steve S. Kim. A dental implant dentist with over 13 years’ expertise and experience in serving the South Bay area in Torrance, Palos Verdes, Carson, and Hawthorne, as well as nearby communities in California.