THE HIDDEN BENEFITS OF DENTAL IMPLANTS
At first glance, dental implants may appear to be a primarily cosmetic procedure. After all, many of us value having a youthful smile and a naturally shaped face. However, there are other problems associated with opting not to replace missing teeth - some of which can dramatically affect your quality of life.
Having gaps where missing teeth should be can affect the rest of the mouth over time. The remaining teeth begin to tilt and drift into the newly created gaps. Additionally, food can easily become trapped in these spaces, increasing the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. The shifting of teeth can cause problems for the opposing teeth and the way the jaw closes. An opposing tooth that has moved into the space of the missing tooth will cause the opposing jaw-line to have relationship problems, eventually leading to temporomandibular joint disorders.
In addition to jaw misalignment, a lost tooth can lead to jaw bone loss. As soon as a tooth is absent from the gum line, a process called resorption causes the jaw to dissolve; the longer the tooth is missing, the greater the loss of bone. As teeth are lost it becomes more difficult to chew food and, over time, more and more of bone disintegrates until it becomes difficult to implement any restoration.
Aside from the health risks, dental implants can positively affect a person's quality of life by improving:
- Comfort: Dental implants eliminate the discomfort associated with dentures. As the jawbone shrinks, the fit of a person's dentures change. Since dentures sit on top of the jawbone and gums, this can result in a slipping or rocking sensation. Exposed nerves and irritated gum tissue may contribute to discomfort.
- Speech: With poorly fitted dentures, the teeth become susceptible to slipping. As a result, facial muscles attempt to compensate by tensing up to hold the teeth in place. The result is speech that includes mumbling, slurring, or clicking sounds.
- Eating: The average patient with excellent fitting dentures eats at 15 to 20 percent efficiency, when compared with a person with normal teeth. As the jawbone deteriorates, the chewing efficiency is reduced even more, making it difficult to chew many kinds of food. Dental implants work like normal teeth, restoring efficiency and food selection.
- Reliability: Dental implants have very high success rates. A dental implant can also last for decades, if cared for properly. With good oral hygiene, dental implants may even last a lifetime.