What Are Dental Implants?
Whether you are missing one tooth or a few, your dentist may have offered you an alternative to dentures: dental implants. Unlike dentures, dental implants are a permanent solution for missing teeth. They can be expensive but are often worth the cost, so it is worth looking into this option if you need them.
Dental implants are surgical fixtures placed in the jawbone. Essentially, you can think of them as an artificial tooth that takes place of the missing tooth.
The benefit of getting a dental implant over a denture is that it is permanent. You will not have to deal with the common issues people with dentures face (e.g., discomfort, eating and speaking problems, etc.), and dental implant maintenance is much simpler (i.e., performing daily dental hygiene).
There are three parts to a dental implant:
- Crown: This is the tooth-like part of the tooth. Typically crowns are made out of ceramic material and designed to look like a natural tooth.
- Connector: The connector is used to secure the crown to the implant of its base.
- Base: The base is a titanium screw that fuses with the bone to provide a stable base for the tooth.
The Dental Implant Surgery Process
Dental implants always involve oral surgery. During the surgery, the oral surgeon will drill a small hole in the jawbone and carefully screw in the base of the dental implant. After the base is securely placed in, the patient's gum will be placed over the implant so it can heal.
After the dental implant's base has healed, a second surgery will take place. The second phase of the surgery will involve the fitting of the connector and attaching the crown to the connector. The crown will be attached using a special dental cement and a small screw.
Dental Implant Aftercare
After your dental implant surgery, to not disturb the wound, you must avoid rinsing, spitting, or touching the wound.
If you see some blood in your saliva or experience bleeding, this can be controlled by placing a gauze pad on the wound and biting the gauze for 30 minutes. However, if bleeding continues, notify your oral surgeon right away.
Swelling is completely normal after receiving dental surgery for a dental implant. In order to minimize swelling, apply an ice bag or a towel filled with ice, on the cheek of the area where you had surgery. You may use cold therapy to the affected area for the first 48 hours.
If you are in pain, your oral surgeon may advise you to take Tylenol or ibuprofen as needed. If your surgeon gave you a prescription for pain medications, be sure to take them as directed.
What Are Dentures?
You might have vivid childhood memories about dentures. Maybe your grandma removed her teeth to soak them overnight during a sleepover, or you watched as an older gentleman’s teeth slid around his mouth while he spoke. This might have caused you to ask, “What are dentures?”
How ever you experience it, learning about dentures for the first time can be a mind-blowing experience. Now, all these years later, you could be exploring this option for a completely different reason: you need them.
This tooth substitute has come a long way from what was available during your childhood. We’ve put together this article so that you can learn everything you need to know.
The best place to start is always by answering the question, “What are dentures?” They are any removable device used to replace missing teeth.
An area of note is the word removable. This quality separates dentures from other dental devices like implants, which remain in the mouth permanently.
People need them whenever a tooth or teeth fall out or break. There are a variety of reasons for someone needing them:
- Tooth decay from poor hygiene.
- Gum disease.
- Developmental issues or birth abnormalities.
- Injury or accidental loss of teeth.
- Tooth loss due to drug use.
They can do an amazing job to transform someone’s physical appearance. Your smile is one of the first qualities a person sees in you, and your teeth can help you make a positive first impression.
Beyond the cosmetic benefit, dentures can assist in numerous functions. Dentures can help you:
- Chew: With no teeth or missing teeth, chewing healthy foods can be challenging or uncomfortable.
- Swallow: Some people struggle to properly swallow with missing teeth, which can lead to choking and food/drinks entering the lungs.
- Speak more clearly: Certain words and sounds are too hard to speak without teeth there for your tongue to push against.
Types of Dentures
There are two main types of dentures. The difference depends on the number of teeth that are being replaced.
The first type are called complete dentures. Complete dentures replace all of the teeth on either the top or bottom of your mouth, so this type is best for people who are missing all of their teeth. Complete dentures need a seal between the gums and the base material of the denture to stay in place and fit well. Some dentures will attach to impacts for a more secure fit.
The other type is called partial dentures. Partial dentures are used when someone is only missing a few teeth. Partial dentures fit in between existing teeth with metal clips. They are typically made from a combination of metal and plastic which provides a realistic appearance as well as a strong, secure fit.
Common Denture Problems
Although dentures are meant to correct a number of dental issues, they may create some unwanted consequences. Some of the challenges linked to dentures include:
Many people who are new to dentures will report feeling sore spots or overall discomfort from the device. This pain makes sense since your mouth will be unaccustomed to the hard edges and odd shape of the dentures.
Be sure to check with your dental professional to see if your pain and discomfort are normal, or more intense than usual. They may be able to make subtle changes to the dentures that lead to increased comfort and satisfaction.
It might be challenging, but you will need to wear your dentures consistently to decrease the pain. Remind yourself the discomfort will be worth the long-term results.
Speaking and Eating Issues
Earlier, this article said that dentures would help improve eating and speaking issues, which is true, but the early days with your new dentures can seem like a big step backward. You may find it hard to make simple sounds with your new teeth, and chewing can feel very strange and awkward.
Your body will adapt, though. Just as children adjust to braces, you will adjust to your new dentures.
As the days move on, you will learn how to place your tongue against your teeth to make each and every needed sound. In the same way, practice will help you feel more natural while chewing, and eating and swallowing will become less of a chore.
Leaving Them In
When dentures feel uncomfortable, you will be more prone to put them in late, take them out early, or leave them out altogether. This may seem easier, but it isn’t the best practice for you.
Without having your dentures in consistently, your mouth cannot adapt to the changes. Your mouth will stay sore, your speech will be distorted and your eating will feel strange.
Set a schedule for your dentures each day to get into the habit of leaving them in for long periods. You need consistency in order to adjust to them.
Cleaning and Care
Dentures, just like natural teeth, need care. Follow your dentist’s instructions on cleaning your dentures.
If you give your dentures the time and attention they deserve, they can serve you well for years to come.
Deciding On Dentures or a Dental Implant
Depending on your insurance coverage, your dentist will present to you both the pros and cons of dentures and dental implants, and help with your decision-making process on which option is best for you.