If you have a missing tooth, the best way by far to replace it is with an implant. Implants will give you a longer-lasting result and help preserve the bone that supports your surrounding teeth. When a tooth is lost, the bone beneath it naturally deteriorates. This deterioration can lead to the loss of other teeth.
To oversimplify how they work, think of an implant as three pieces: #1 – the implant, #2 – the abutment, and #3 – the crown. Once it’s been determined that an implant is a good choice for you, an oral surgeon or periodontist (gum doctor) will surgically place the implant into the bone below the missing tooth. After a period of healing, usually 3 months, you’ll go back and the doctor will screw the abutment, or post, down into the implant. So now you’ve got the implant fused to the bone below the gum line and the abutment sticking up above the gum line. Usually, but not always, the same day the abutment is placed, you’ll go to visit your dentist who will take a quick impression and send it to the dental lab to have your permanent crown made. A temporary crown will be placed over the abutment until your permanent crown is ready to be cemented, about two weeks later.
If you have more than one tooth missing, implants are ideal options. They can be used to support bridges. If you have three missing teeth in a row, two implants can be used to support a three-unit bridge. If you’re unfortunate enough to have lost all of your upper or lower teeth, but fortunate enough to have high bone density and volume, as few as 4 implants could support 10 to 12 teeth.
Implants can also be used to support removable dentures. The implants will keep the dentures from slipping while eating and speaking, and help preserve the underlying bone by transferring chewing pressure away from the surface of your gums (like you would have with traditional dentures).
The only way an implant can fail is if it loses attachment to the bone. And there are only two ways this can happen: poor oral hygiene or biting pressure that is excessive. Like we’ve said many times, proper brushing, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist are imperative if you want good oral hygiene. If you are an excessive biter, you clench your teeth regularly, or you grind your teeth, a night guard might be recommended to protect your implants.