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The Truth About Dental Implants

Are they right for you?

By Rhonda Savage, DDS, Uptown Dental Gig Harbor

Fourteen years ago, Kevin came to my dental office worried about his front teeth. He wanted a nicer looking smile, but there were complications from orthodontic care he’d received when he was young. His front teeth had very short roots and cavities. Kevin was entering the working world and was worried about the appearance of his teeth. We talked about three options: implants, bridgework or splinting his upper front teeth together on the tongue side and placing veneers.

With short roots, some dentist would feel that implants would be the best. It certainly was a good option, but in a paper I published in a scientific, peer-reviewed dental journal, I argued, “What if he keeps these teeth five years?” “Where will we be technologically with implants in the next five years?” “What if the teeth go 10 or 15 years?”

Kevin came back after the 14 years. He’d had an accidental blow to his face and one of the veneers I’d placed came off. It was time to place implants. If you’re considering implants, technology and materials have improved and costs have come down due to competition in the implant market.

Implants are a man-made root. They’re very strong, hassle free and state of the art. You do have to keep them clean because while they won’t get cavities, you can lose an implant due to gum disease. The Philips Sonicare brushes, the AirFloss, Butler soft picks and an antibiotic liquid called chlorhexidine are important tools to use with implant maintenance.

You can also lose an implant due to excessive bite forces, which normally result from clenching or grinding. Most patients with implants should be wearing nighttime protection, such as a night guard or an oral sleep apnea appliance.

With implants, the process can be quick if the implant can be placed the same day as tooth removal. But, that may not be the best treatment process, especially if there is any sign of infection. There’s a stepwise process if there’s any sign of infection: tooth removal, bone grafting, healing time, implant placement then creation of the restoration. Did you know you can have implants to support a denture and get rid of that loose lower denture? Implant-supported crown and bridgework or the “All on Four” technology is amazing!

You may need bone grafting if the tooth has been missing for a while. Bone grafting for one tooth or many teeth provides a scaffold for your bone to grow around. I know what you’re thinking: “This sounds painful!” I understand how you feel but, for most patients, placement of an implant is less uncomfortable than the removal of a tooth.

Implant dentistry is a big decision. It’s important to look at the training and credentials of the dentist and seek a second opinion if you have questions or concerns. You can look and feel better with implants as they help maintain the bone in your face. Without teeth or implants, you lose the bone in the lower third of your face. But the great news is, with today’s technology, you can look and feel younger, plus chew and eat healthier for the rest of your life!

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