We think of dental implants as a replacement for lost teeth but in fact they are on double-duty, helping retain your existing teeth as well.
Every single gap in your mouth has the potential to create problems for your dental health. As soon as the balance of teeth in the mouth is lost – in fact as soon as you lose a single tooth – things can start to go wrong. What we’re talking about here is a vicious cycle where tooth loss leads to more tooth loss. And perhaps what’s even worse is that many of the so-called solutions from the past actually compound the problem.
That’s right: There’s a chance that what you’re doing to address the issue is in fact making it worse. Which is why dental implants are the only solution. Because while it’s true that dental implants are a way to restore your smile, your chewing ability, as well as regain your natural face shape, they are also working hard on another front as well: To protect your existing natural teeth.
So how exactly do they do this? And what is so damaging about other methods of tooth replacement? Let’s look at this closely as we break down the top four ways that dental implants protect your remaining natural teeth.
1. Implants eliminate the need for dentures
Having individual dental implants fitted in a single day removes the need for dentures entirely. Why is this a good thing? Well, if you’re trying to retain the remaining natural teeth in your mouth, the last thing you should be considering is putting extra stress on them. Makes sense, right? But dentures do exactly that – their tiny metallic hooks or clasps fix onto your adjacent, healthy teeth and can loosen or even abrade them. So aside from creating discomfort, they put unnecessary pressure on the areas you are trying to preserve.
But there’s more: When teeth are replaced with a removable partial denture, there is additional pressure placed on the gums and the alveolar bone (jawbone). The bone itself is already in a process of resorption (receding) since the teeth are no longer there to stimulate it, but now the pressure on gums and bone from dentures accelerates this process.
When healthy teeth become too abraded or damaged to hold the dentures in place, the dentures themselves must be made larger in order to be fixed to another natural tooth, which will then in turn be subject to pressure and abrasion as well.
2. Implants eliminate the need for tooth-supported bridges
When you have a tooth-supported bridge to replace a tooth, the adjacent healthy teeth need to be cut down into peg shapes so the new crowns can be fitted. So you’re essentially taking a perfectly healthy tooth and removing a large part of its volume, making it weaker and more prone to decay. Eventually the crowned teeth which are part of a longer bridge become mobile due to the excessive force exerted on them.
By trying to find a solution for an unhealthy tooth, you end up damaging a healthy one. A dental implant with an individual crown is a far more effective way of replacing a missing tooth since it does not require a tooth-supported bridge and this means your natural, healthy teeth can remain as they are.
3. Implants keep the jawbone healthy
When you chew food, your healthy teeth are naturally strengthening your jawbone. Problems occur when teeth are missing and there is no stimulation of the bone, causing it to resorb. Over time, this leads to a more ‘aged’ look, as the proportions of the upper part and lower part of your face start to change. Such a change in appearance can be very alarming for the patient.
Keeping the jawbone healthy means stopping resorption and ensuring your facial structure does not alter. Implants are made from biocompatible titanium which is not only extremely strong and long-lasting but even more importantly it is accepted by the body. In fact it actually binds with the bone in a process known as osseointegration.
Once bonded with the bone, dental implants help provide the necessary stimulation that your original teeth once gave, and so help stop the bone from breaking down.
4. Implants keep existing teeth in line
When teeth are lost or removed, not only does the jawbone start to resorb but the teeth connected to it begin to drift into the empty spaces that have been created.
In a healthy mouth, the teeth are part of a highly intricate structure. After tooth loss, the remaining teeth essentially lose their solid placement and start to move towards the gaps. This creates problems with how your teeth fit together and this of course affects their function as well (including your bite). The teeth follow a tendency to move both towards the front of our mouths and towards the opposing jaw. How can this be stopped? By putting something in their way: Dental implants.
Ultimately, dental implants are there as a substitute for tooth roots so they provide a solid foundation for replacement teeth without negatively impacting the healthy adjacent teeth. So it’s not just about filling gaps with natural-looking implants, but it’s taking care of your remaining teeth as well.
About the author:
BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS
Cert. Oral & Maxillofacial Surgery
Dr. Costa, BDS cum laude, FFD (SA) MFOS, qualified as a dentist in 1984 after receiving his dental degree from the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. He graduated at the top of his class with “rank order number one,” and has received numerous awards over the years, including the Gold Medal of the Dental Association of South Africa, which recognizes the most outstanding graduate. In 1990 he completed his four-year, full-time postgraduate in maxillo-facial and oral surgery training at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. Since 1991 he has been in private practice, concentrating on immediate loading of dental implants. To date Dr. Costa has placed over 35,000 dental implants, and as a key member of the global dental implant community he is a regular speaker on the topic, lecturing at various international implant congresses. In 2012, together with Prosthodontist Dr. Petros, Dr. Costa established SameDay Dental Implants Clinic, Dubai, as well as the Branemark Osseointegration Center, Dubai.