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Missing Teeth?  Should I get Dental Implants?

A Conversation with Dental Implant Specialist Dr. Po Lee

If you suffer from missing teeth, dental implants look and feel the most natural compared to other modes of treatment for replacing missing teeth.  Dental implants allow you to use your teeth most comfortably – confidently eating, smiling, laughing, talking, kissing and enjoying all of your everyday activities without worrying about your teeth.  Unlike other tooth replacement options, dental implants don’t slip or click when you talk, laugh or eat.  They also help to keep your jawbone healthy, so that your facial structure stays intact.  Modern dental implants have been used successfully for over 50 years.  They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth and they allow these new teeth to feel, look and function naturally.  When performed by a specialty trained and experienced implant dentist, dental implant surgery can be one of the safest and most predictable procedures in dentistry.

What are the Benefits of Dental Implants?

They resemble natural teeth the most:  Dental implants feel, look, fit and function like healthy, natural teeth.  You brush and floss them just like you do your natural teeth – there is no need to remove them for cleaning.  They also help you retain your natural face shape and smile. 
They are built to last: Dental implants that are properly cared for can last many decades.  Many other options, including certain types of dental bridges and dentures, may need to be replaced as often as every 5 to 10 years, requiring a more significant investment of time and money.
You can comfortably live your daily life: Your dental implants will be secure, so they won't slip or click when you talk, eat or laugh. You'll also find that your speech is more natural.

Protection for facial bone and healthy teeth: Leaving empty spaces in your mouth after losing one or more teeth can lead to health issues such as jawbone deterioration.  Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that actually helps stimulate bone growth and prevent bone loss.  Getting dental implants as soon as possible after losing a tooth helps prevent bone loss at the site.  Also, dental implants don't require grinding down adjacent teeth to anchor bridges or attach partial dentures.

How Much do Dental Implants Cost?

No two patients or their customized dental implants treatments are exactly alike, so the cost – including the number of appointments required and procedures performed – will vary depending on your particular needs. We can understand that it will be helpful for patients to know the treatment costs first, but without knowing the patient's conditions and needs, it is very difficult for doctors to estimate treatment costs. Different brands of dental implants also differ in cost, factors affecting the cost include the type of titanium metal used in the implant, the surface treatment of the implant, sterilization process, precision of the implant components, just to name a few.  Treatment planning of dental implants requires a comprehensive diagnosis and analysis of the patient’s medical history, radiographic imaging, quality of the bone, location and span of the missing teeth area, and surrounding anatomy etc. Dental implant surgeries are complex medical procedures, and the best outcome for patients are successful treatments that can stand the test of time, so please do not place convenience over cautiousness, as this increases the risk of long-term complications. We recommend consulting an implant specialist who can conduct a comprehensive examination and perform the necessary diagnostics to best determine your needs and the associated costs. That way, you will be better informed before deciding whether dental implant treatments are for you.

How long does it take to replace teeth using dental implants?

Each patient is unique.  After an initial consultation, your implant specialist will provide you with a treatment plan and the estimated time frame required.  Total treatment time depends on your needs, medical and dental history, jawbone condition, and the technique and materials used.  It can be as short as a few months, or more than a year for more complex conditions.   

Are dental implants safe? Does it hurt to get dental implants?

Implant dentistry, which have been practiced for half a century, are safe and effective.  As in any medical procedure, however, there can be complications.  Choosing a well-trained implant specialist dentist will help minimize complication risk and ensure skillful handling of any problems, should they arise.  It is important that you and your implant dentist review your health history and any habits such as smoking, which could affect the success of your recommended care, so that you are fully informed about the benefits and risks involved.  With proper anesthesia during treatment and helpful instructions for home care, many people report that they feel better than anticipated.  Often, they return to work and daily activities the next day.  

What if I don't do anything about my Missing Teeth?

When you lose a tooth, nearby teeth will begin drifting into the empty space.  The teeth in the opposite jaw will also begin to shift up or down toward the space.  Teeth that have drifted will be prone to decay and gum disease.  When a tooth is missing, the surrounding jawbone that supports the lips and cheeks will begin to shrink and will cause the face to sag and will make you look older prematurely.  The combination of missing teeth and reduced jaw bone will make your face look wrinkly, and your cheeks will appear hollow and saggy, since they can no longer support your lips and cheeks from the inside.
This can negatively influence your daily life because even though it may be inside your mouth and not visible from the outside, over time it will start to affect your appearance, self-esteem, your oral health and even your health in general

Where do I Start?  Who should I Seek for my Dental Implant?

Dental implants are sophisticated dental devices that must be placed carefully to minimize complications or implant failure.  For the best results, it is important that you choose a dental implant specialist who has received many years of proper education and extensive training in implant dentistry in a hospital-based residency.  American Dental Association recommends seeking periodontists, oral surgeons, or implant specialists who have received several years of graduate training from accredited implant programs.

Information Source:  Harvard School of Dental Medicine, ITI International Team for Implantology, American Academy of Implant Dentistry, American Dental Association

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