Missing teeth can have a negative impact on your quality of life. They can leave you feeling self-conscious about your smile and cause you to avoid eating certain foods. If left untreated, the missing teeth can even affect the remaining teeth and contribute to bone loss. Ultimately over time, these imbalances lead to changes in your facial aesthetics. Dental implants can fill gaps left by one or more missing teeth and recreate your full smile.
At Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we approach dental implants with the end result in mind. Our doctors work closely with your restoring dentist or prosthodontist in the Houston area to develop a detailed plan that includes your final restoration. The correct positioning of the implant is paramount for long-term implant success, and that must be coordinated with the end result in mind.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a common tooth replacement option. When a tooth is lost, falls out, a relatively small titanium screw-like implant is inserted in its place. The implant eventually becomes integrated into the body when bone cells grow intimately close to the implant surface; the process is called osseointegration. At that time, the implant acts as a new root of your tooth upon which the implant abutment can be placed. The final restoration (crown or bridge) is either screwed or glued into place on top of the abutment. The replacement tooth is designed and fabricated to blend in seamlessly with existing teeth.
Single Tooth Implants: When an isolated tooth is lost, a single implant is an excellent choice to preserve natural balance and harmony.
Multiple Tooth Implants: Dental implants can also be used to replace several teeth. If missing teeth are next to one another, a fixed partial prosthesis or bridge may be used to restore your missing teeth. If the missing teeth are separated by other natural teeth, either single crowns can be fabricated, or all the missing teeth in that arch can be replaced with a partial denture that snaps into place.
All-On-4 Implants: When restoring the natural teeth is not possible anymore, a full arch replacement is needed. There is an alternative to traditional dentures. All-On-4 uses at least two implants in the front of the mouth and two in the back to hold the new teeth in place. Once the replacement arch has been affixed, it is not removed for cleaning on a daily basis – it remains in place and is cared for like natural teeth. These teeth still require care, and regular visits to your dental home should be maintained; typically, the teeth are removed every 12 months for evaluation and optimization.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Implants?
Many people are surprised to find that a majority of patients are good candidates for dental implants. While there are a few exceptions, many obstacles can be overcome and allow for surgery. Dental implants may be worth considering if you are:
- Missing one or more teeth
- Tired of dentures with poor retention or poor aesthetics
- Want to be able to eat a wide variety of foods without limitations
- Self-conscious about your smile because of gaps from missing teeth
- Ready to get back your smile that you love
Why Choose Dental Implants?
When comparing options for replacing missing teeth, there are many benefits to dental implants:
- They look, feel, and function much like your natural teeth.
- They allow you to eat whatever foods you want.
- They do not move and prevent other teeth from shifting.
- They help stop bone loss by stimulating the jaw bone.
- They are incredibly durable and do not deteriorate.
- They are often made of titanium which is a biocompatible material, meaning it is readily accepted by the existing bone.
Before proceeding with dental implant surgery, our doctors will thoroughly review your oral health and discuss your goals for care. We will help you decide if dental implants are the right path to achieve those goals or if there are other options that better align with your needs. Whenever possible, we try to preserve your original teeth before choosing a prosthesis.
At Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial, we treat you like family and want to promote the best possible outcomes. Consultations are never rushed, so we have time to answer all of your questions and explain procedures in a way that makes sense to you. You should have all the necessary information before making your decision. If dental implants will enable you to reach the endpoint you are envisioning, we will develop a detailed treatment plan to get you there as well as help you along the way.
The Dental Implant Process
Whether you are getting a single implant or multiple implants, we create a personalized plan aligned with your needs. We use advanced technology to obtain detailed images of your mouth and determine exactly where to put the dental implants based on the final goal.
Part of the treatment plan may include pre-prosthetic surgery. This is used to prepare your mouth for implants or other prosthetics. We may need to reshape the bone or gum, contour the tissue, or add additional bone using a bone graft. Once the area heals, we can move forward with implant placement.
It is important that the dental implant be placed in healthy and stable bone. If there is inadequate bone present, a bone graft will be required to create an ideal foundation for long-term implant health. A bone graft can be used to build up the area and strengthen existing bone to create a solid foundation. Bone grafting may be done prior to implant surgery, or in some cases, the grafting can be completed at the same time as implant placement.
Dental Implant Surgery
To keep you comfortable, we can use IV sedation during surgery. This allows you to relax and not remember the procedure. We will even apply a bit of topical anesthetic before inserting the needle to maximize your comfort while you relax.
Once you are sedated, a small incision is made in the gum to access the bone. A hole is drilled for the implant, and the implant is placed into its final desired position. Typically implant placement is not difficult and should not take more than 30 to 45 minutes; however, it will seem like only a moment due to the IV sedation.
Over the next several months, the bone will grow in tight contact with the implant threads in a process called osseointegration, which creates a solid foundation for the replacement tooth. During this time, a temporary retainer-like prosthesis can help prevent shifting of the teeth and create a natural-looking smile right after surgery.
After about four to six months, the bone will be integrated enough with the implant that your permanent crown or prosthetic can be attached. You will be able to eat and drink like normal, with no limitations. Implants are to be treated like natural teeth; we need to cleanse them daily and have them checked regularly by our restorative dentist.
Immediate Implant Placement
Whenever possible, we try to place dental implants immediately after tooth extraction. The socket naturally has an ideal environment for healing and bone formation, which can be advantageous for osseointegration. The high success rate of immediate implant placement is partly due to the socket, which fills in with bone very predictably in most circumstances. When we compliment that process with the placement of the bone graft and your own growth factors, immediate implants are highly predictable.
In addition, immediate implant placement can reduce the overall time until final restoration by several months. When everything is done together, it keeps the process moving forward and allows for faster restoration of your desired teeth.
Dental Implant Recovery
After surgery, you may experience some minimal discomfort, but many people find over-the-counter discomfort relievers are enough to manage any discomfort. Initially, the site may be slightly swollen or bruised, but that will go away after a couple of days. Some find that applying cold to the area may help the most in the first 24 to 36 hours. Traditionally after that time, heat is helpful for the healing process as it promotes increased blood flow to the surgical area, bringing with it all the healing properties that blood provides.
It is important not to bite down on your new implant while it heals, especially if you have a temporary crown. You do not want to disturb it or shift it out of place. For the next couple of months, you will want to become more conscious while eating. Ideally, you want to start with a diet or relatively soft foods and advance your diet as tolerated. Typically you want to chew soft foods only on the side with the implant placement so that you are not disrupting the healing process.
Your doctor will check your recovery progress to ensure that everything is healing as expected and there are no complications. Any issues will be addressed to prevent infection and support the healthy integration of the implant. Once the osseointegration is complete, the doctor will expose the top of the implant if it is not already and attach the abutment to prepare the site for the replacement tooth. Your permanent tooth or prosthetic will be affixed to the implant, and you will be ready to return to normal eating.
Will Dental Implant Surgery Hurt?
It is our goal at Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to make you as comfortable as possible. Your comfort is a priority. We consult with you regarding the level of sedation you prefer and how we can effectively meet your needs. We talk you through each step of the procedure, so you feel more comfortable with what is happening. If you are anxious or nervous, sedation can ease your mind and allow you to relax. You will not feel any discomfort during surgery, and we work with you to manage any discomfort afterward.
What is the Success Rate of Dental Implants?
With advances in technology, the success of dental implants has improved over the years. The implant success rate is greater than 95% when properly placed and monitored by your restoring dentist. Many patients find that their implant lasts for the rest of their lifetime. The crown or prosthetic may need to be replaced every few years due to wear and tear from eating and drinking, but the actual titanium post should withstand life forces and remain functional.
Caring for Dental Implants
All teeth – whether natural or implants – should be brushed, flossed, and cleansed with a water flosser daily. You should continue to have regular checkups and cleanings by your dental provider and alert your oral surgeon if you have any concerns about your implant.
Once the implant has integrated with your jaw bone, you should be able to eat any type of food without discomfort. It is highly recommended that your dentist fabricate a nightguard to protect your teeth at night when sleeping. Since implants do not move like natural teeth, which have a periodontal ligament or a soft tissue union between teeth and bone, they are more prone to overloading if not in ideal occlusion or during times of heavy clenching. One of the benefits of implants is that they hold replacement teeth securely in place, so you can smile and eat confidently without the need for adhesive.
Cost of Implants
The cost of dental implants can vary depending on a variety of factors. Our doctors will do a thorough evaluation and create a treatment plan that aligns with the goals of your dental restoration. We will look at factors such as:
- Location of missing teeth
- Quality and quantity of hard and soft tissue
- Opposing dentition
- Parafuntional habits
- Your desired outcome
This will all be taken into consideration, so we can give you a more accurate estimate for pricing. In addition, any dental insurance coverage will be factored in. At Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we can negotiate payment plans or financing to help you access the treatment you need at an affordable cost.
Can Dental Implants Work with Dentures?
A common complaint about dentures is that they are uncomfortable or slip out of place. Implant-retained dentures (overdentures) use strategically placed implants to securely hold dentures in place. They attach to the implants that are securely integrated with the bone rather than sitting on top of the gums. And, unlike traditional maxillary dentures, the prosthetic can be made so that it does not cover the palate or roof of your mouth, allowing for a more normal sensation of taste as well as more appropriate space for your tongue.
All-On-4 dental implants are another option for replacing a full arch of teeth. They can be used for just the top arch, just the bottom arch, or both depending on your needs. While the implants heal, a temporary prosthetic can be attached, so you have a full and functional smile.
Risks of Not Replacing Missing Teeth
Missing teeth can affect many aspects of your oral health:
- Without a tooth root stimulating the jaw, the bone may begin to deteriorate or resorb. Bone is a dynamic organ just like a muscle in the sense if you continue to stimulate it with force, it will stay big and strong. After the tooth root is removed, the bone does not have as much internal stimulation and the bone will atrophy and shrink. Many people notice this when wearing dentures because the dentures no longer fit as snugly on the gums and need to be refitted.
- Bone loss can affect the shape and structure of your face. You may notice your features begin to change because there is not as much bone support.
- Missing teeth can increase your risk of developing gum disease, which can spread to the remaining teeth.
- Having a gap between teeth gives them room to shift out of place. This can impact your bite and the alignment of your teeth and jaw. Teeth may also appear to shift, change position, or become mobile.
- Missing teeth can affect your speech and how you form words, as well as how you chew food or what foods you eat.
Are there Risks with Dental Implant Surgery?
Any surgery comes with some level of risk, but dental implants are considered relatively safe. Our doctors go through your medical history with you and complete a comprehensive physical and radiographic examination, so we can identify any potential issues. If you have any chronic conditions such as asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, or heart problems, be sure to let the doctor know. This allows us to plan accordingly and work in partnership with your primary care provider or specialists to enhance your safety and give you the best possible care before, during, and after the surgery.
Having certain underlying conditions does not necessarily exclude you as a candidate for dental implants. We can often develop solutions tailored to your needs so that you can have missing teeth replaced in a safe, predictable manner.
Replace Missing Teeth for a Full and Functional Smile
If you are tired of dealing with missing teeth and adjusting to accommodate them, contact Lighthouse Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery to learn more about dental implants. We will never pressure you into any procedure and always treat you like family, recommending what we believe is in your best interest. We work with you to achieve your goals and are realistic about what is possible and what to expect.
Whether you are considering a single implant, multiple implants, full-arch restorations, or are not sure what you need, we can help. Our doctors focus on supporting Houston and Katy, Texas patients by exploring their options and creating a personalized treatment plan aligned with their needs and goals. We provide a wide range of oral surgery services to optimize outcomes and help you get back to smiling as soon as possible.
To schedule a consultation and find out if dental implants are right for you, contact any of our offices in Houston or Katy, TX at (713) 790-1995.