As our patients age, tooth loss becomes a very real possibility, even for healthy adults who have taken good care of their teeth. When the time comes to replace one or several teeth, dental implants are an increasingly popular choice. We think this is because patients want to maintain not only healthy teeth but also a great smile as they age. If 60 is the new 40, it’s important to have a smile that matches our overall vitality as we move into the senior years.
Dental Implants And Quality Of Life
ADA Dentists agree that implants are one of the most important strides in dentistry in the last few decades. And choosing dental implants can be a big factor in maintaining and boosting self-esteem and quality of life as we age–for both men and women. Our doctors were interested in a recent study by Case Western Reserve University that showed that older women who lost teeth because of osteoporosis were happiest with dental implants as compared with other replacement options like bridges or dentures. The study showed that the stability and appearance of implants had positive repercussions in the women’s work lives, emotional lives and relationships with their partners. This is very likely because implants are the closest thing to the real thing.
How Do Implants Work?
Your dentist surgically implants a titanium “root”, or post, into the gums. The material is designed to be easily accepted by your mouth, and natural bone grows around the implant. Then your dentist puts your new artificial tooth or teeth in place, matching it with your own teeth for a natural look.
Implants vs. Bridges And Dentures: How Do They Compare?
Let’s take a look at the benefits and drawbacks of implants and other tooth replacement options:
Implants: The Pros
- Implants are secure, stable and natural looking and blend in with surrounding teeth.
- Instead of damaging the jawbone, implants allow for the creation of new bone growth around the implant as they become part of your mouth.
- Implants can last for 20 years or more with the right care.
- Implants don’t affect the surrounding teeth and don’t require the removal of healthy teeth or tooth material.
Implants: The Cons
- Implants require overall mouth health. So, they aren’t an option if the gums and jaw are not in good shape. Tobacco users or some patients with chronic illnesses may not be candidates for dental implants.
- Implants tend to be more expensive up front than other options, although costs for maintenance and replacement tend to be lower in the long run. However, the work is done in phases, so the expense is spread out a bit.
Bridges: The Pros
- Also called fixed partial denture, a bridge is a permanent replacement installed by your dentist and attached to surrounding teeth. In the Case Western Study, patients with bridges reported the next highest level of satisfaction after implants.
- Bridges are more natural looking than dentures and don’t slip while eating or talking.
- Bridges are less costly up front than implants.
Bridges: The Cons
- Installing a bridge requires removing healthy tooth material from neighboring teeth. Your dentist has to place crowns on the neighboring teeth to attach the bridge which requires them to be filed down.
- Bridges generally only last 10 to 15 years according to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry. They can also make it hard to reach the gums underneath with brushing and flossing and lead to decay.
Removable Dentures: The Pros
- Full or partial removable dentures can help patients who have lost multiple teeth because of gum disease or damage to the underlying jawbone since they also replace some of the gumline.
- Dentures have a lower upfront cost than implants.
Removable Dentures: The Cons
- Despite improvements in quality in recent years, dentures can still slip out of place when you’re eating or speaking.
- They are generally less stable and can lead to embarrassment and self-consciousness.
- Dentures look less natural than implants and are usually fairly easy to spot.
Are Dental Implants Right For Me?
Dental implants are by far the most natural tooth replacement in terms of both look and feel. They really are the closest thing to having your natural tooth back! They’re stable and solid, giving you a great smile without the inconvenience of dentures. And dental implants can last for years to come–even for life. If your overall mouth health is good but you’re missing one or more than one tooth, we encourage you to talk with your dentist about how implants can help you regain confidence and self-esteem.