Having a tooth extracted for any reason can lead to difficulties with chewing, or in some cases, speaking. This is one of the reasons we always do our best to preserve your natural teeth with restorations, if possible. But there are some situations where restorative works like root canals or fillings simply aren’t enough to save the tooth, and an extraction is necessary. If you’re left with a problematic gap between teeth or a noticeable space in the front of your mouth, you may want to consider a dental implant.
Is a Dental Implant the Only Option After a Tooth Extraction?
No, and not everyone is a good candidate for an implanted tooth. There are several options after an extraction:
- Do nothing. If the empty space isn’t bothering you and is toward the back of your mouth where it’s less visible, it might be perfectly fine as is.
- Removable partial dentures. These can be attached to nearby teeth with a small clasp. Although they usually look like real teeth, many patients dislike having to clean them or feel that they move around too much in the space. They are also small and easy to lose, and replacements can be very expensive, so some people prefer a more permanent solution.
- A fixed bridge. With this procedure, we place a pontic, or false tooth, in the gap where the extracted tooth used to be. It’s cemented to the two teeth on either side and can only be removed by your dentist. Most people prefer this to the removable partial dentures as they can clean it by brushing, just like their other teeth. With proper care, bridges can last anywhere from 5-15 years. However, occasionally they can become loose and move around, and some people feel they aren’t stable enough.
- A dental implant. This is a much more complex procedure than a bridge placement, but the results are the closest to a natural tooth that you can get. The base of your implant is inserted in the jawbone, then a dental crown is attached to an abutment above the gum line. Because the implant extends into the jaw, it is very stable and it both looks and feels like a real tooth. However, it can take months to complete the multiple procedures involved, and some health issues may make dental implantation a poor choice.
How Does Dental Implantation Work?
First, we begin with a consultation to examine your teeth, take a thorough medical history, and determine if an implant is a good solution for you. Because the implant is placed into the jawbone, it may not be ideal for some patients with bone or jaw problems. Using tobacco products increases the risk of complications or implant failure, so we may recommend that you stop smoking before moving on with the implantation procedure. It also involves at least two oral surgeries – sometimes three – spaced several months apart, so we like to make sure patients understand the time commitment.
If there are no health concerns and you’re ready to invest the time in getting an implant, we’ll schedule an appointment to implant a titanium rod in the jaw. If you don’t have enough bone, we may do a bone graft first, because chewing puts a lot of strain on the jaw. In this procedure, we remove a piece of bone from elsewhere in your body or use a bone substitute and graft it onto the jawbone. This requires time to heal, but once the jaw is ready, we can proceed.
We’ll make a small incision in the gums, then drill several holes into the jawbone and place the rod where the root of the tooth would have been. (You will be numb and sedation is available if needed, so you don’t need to worry about this part.) Next, we’ll close the incision to give the jawbone and the rod time to heal. During this process, the rod fuses with the jawbone so it will be held in place permanently.
Pain and swelling are common after this surgery, and we may prescribe medication to help with pain and prevent infection. Eating soft foods for a few days will help you to avoid irritating the incision area.
After a few months, we check on the rod to see if the fusion to the bone is complete. If not, we may give it more time to heal. In a few cases, the rod never fuses and it’s necessary to remove it and start over – again, this is more likely to happen if you smoke, so we recommend quitting before you start this process.
If the fusion is complete, we’ll move on to the next step. At this point, we’ll make another incision in the gums and attach a small abutment, or post, to the titanium rod, closing the gum tissue around but not over it. This leaves the tip of the post out above the gumline. After this minor procedure, we’ll wait a few weeks for your gums to heal, then you’ll come in so we can make a mold of your teeth.
The mold is then forwarded to a dental lab, where they will manufacture a crown to go on the post. Once it’s ready, we will attach this crown, usually permanently. You can get a removable crown, but many people find this has the same difficulties as removable bridges, so permanent crowns are preferred by most patients. These are cemented onto the tooth in a brief session at our office. We will check your bite and ask you to let us know if you have any trouble or discomfort with the new crown. These issues are common and usually easy to fix, so please don’t hesitate to come back in for an adjustment.
Can You Get a Temporary Covering for the Gap?
Yes. Many patients express concern because the multiple procedures take time, and they don’t want to have a visible gap during this process. We can make you a temporary, partial denture until the process is complete. This is weaker than a permanent crown and not permanently glued in place, so we advise chewing carefully around the temporary tooth.
Are Affordable Dental Implants Available?
Our services are competitively priced, so the question may be whether or not your insurance covers dental implants. Some policies consider dental implants cosmetic, with a few exceptions for medical necessity. Other policies will cover part of the cost, while you are responsible for a copay. If you have questions about what your insurance will cover, our administrative staff can seek a predetermination from the insurance carrier.
What If You Have Lost More Than One Tooth?
It depends on the specific situation, but in some cases, one implant can support multiple crowns if the crowns are bridged together. If we think this is an option, we will let you know. In many situations, you may need multiple implants.
How Can You Get Dental Implants in Gwinnett County?
If you’re interested in dental implants, please contact Great Care Family Dentistry today and schedule a consultation. We’ll examine your teeth and ask questions about your medical history. If we find that a dental implant is the best solution and you are a good candidate, we can get started on the process right away. If an implant isn’t the best option, we can recommend alternatives.