When a tooth is missing, it can have serious implications on one’s oral and overall health. Studies have shown that adults with missing teeth are at an increased risk of suffering from malnutrition. The loss of function from a missing tooth can make chewing difficult, which may prompt the selection of soft foods over vitamin- and nutrient-dense lean proteins, fruits, and vegetables. This ultimately can result in marked weight loss, a decrease in self-confidence, and other related issues. Experienced San Marcos, CA dentist, Dr. Jeffrey Allred of Allred Dental, explains how dental implants can help restore proper oral function to the mouth when there is a missing tooth.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are composed of titanium alloy, the same material that is used to make knee, shoulder, and hip implants. These small posts, which come in varying sizes and heights, are surgically placed just above or directly into the jawbone. The implant acts as a sort of root to support artificial teeth, including custom-made porcelain crowns, bridges, and dentures that are affixed to them to restore functionality, as well as a natural-looking appearance to the mouth. Not only do implants preserve natural bone in the jaw, but they may also stimulate future bone growth. They are a popular choice among San Marcos, CA men and women who are missing one or more teeth as they improve the ability to chew properly and more effectively, as well as enhance the appearance of their smile.
Endosteal implants are the most commonly used style of implant. Similar in shape to a small screw, the device is placed into the jawbone with the potential to support one or more prosthetic teeth. Endosteal implants can be an alternative for patients who previously have had a bridge or dentures that were removable. With subperiosteal implants, posts are placed below the gums but above the jawbone. They are ideal for those who are not candidates for conventional-style dentures, as well as patients whose jawbones are not healthy enough to support an endosteal dental implant.
Are you a candidate for implants?
Patients who are missing one or more teeth may be good candidates to receive dental implants. Because they are secured in the gums and jaw, they do not slip or move around when you speak, eat or smile. Following a thorough oral examination, Dr. Allred of Allred Dental in San Marcos, CA, will determine whether enough bone is present in the jaw to support the implant. It may be necessary to undergo bone grafting, a procedure designed to regenerate and restore the bone before implants can be placed. It also is important that the gums be healthy and free of disease. However, dental implants typically are not recommended for younger patients whose bones are still growing, pregnant women or smokers, as well as those who have been diagnosed with a chronic medical condition or take certain medications.
What does the procedure entail?
Most dental implant patients receive a local anesthetic, which numbs the area where the surgery will be performed. After opening the gums, Dr. Allred will evaluate the site where the implant will be placed. A pilot hole will be drilled to hold the metal implant post and, once finished, its alignment will be checked. The implant will be placed with the help of a special dental drill head. After it is secured and sealed with sutures, the area must be left to heal for several months before a device called an abutment can be placed on the implant to serve as a base for the prosthetic tooth, which will be custom crafted at our San Marcos, CA onsite dental lab.
What to expect during recovery
It is not unusual for some patients to experience discomfort, minor bleeding, bruising, and inflammation after dental implant surgery. Patients will be allowed to eat only soft foods for about the first 24 hours following surgery. Tooth brushing also can be resumed after this time, and you may be advised to gently rinse your mouth with a mild saltwater solution several times daily. In most cases, over-the-counter medications are all that is required to alleviate the pain associated with implant surgery. Be sure to take any antibiotics that have been prescribed to prevent an infection from forming at or near the implant site.
Swelling in the face, which can make it difficult to swallow or open your mouth wide, may increase for several days after surgery before it begins to subside. Sutures used to close the incisions likely will dissolve or fall out on their own within a week. As with any type of oral surgery, patients should refrain from smoking after surgery as this could impede the healing process. Although strenuous activity should be avoided for several days following surgery, most patients are about to resume their normal daily activities as soon as they feel capable of doing so.
What happens next?
A follow-up appointment will be scheduled for about three weeks after surgery so that Dr. Allred can observe the progress of your recovery. Depending on the number of implants that were placed in the jaw and whether you underwent a bone or gum graft, it generally takes between 2-6 months for your mouth to fully recover from the initial surgery. A second procedure will be performed, during which the implant will be uncovered and the abutment placed. However, it may be determined necessary for some patients to have other teeth extracted. Dr. Allred will decide whether the dental implant process can move forward at this time.
During the months it will take for the jawbone to fuse with the implant, a temporary porcelain crown may be placed atop the dental implant. Once the site has fully healed, the permanent restoration can be completed with the placement of a durable crown, bridge or denture. As with natural teeth, it is important that patients maintain good oral health habits, which includes regular brushing and flossing, to extend the life of dental implants so that they can continue to function properly and look their best.
To learn more about the transformative power of dental implants, you are encouraged to contact the office of Allred Dental in San Marcos, CA. Dr. Jeffrey Allred looks forward to helping patients take the first step toward restoring their oral health and smile.