On the surface of it, it seems a strange thing that we have to have teeth replaced or repaired over our lifetime. Surely our teeth were meant to provide us with a means to chew food to survive and should be expected to last our full lifetime. There are, however, two factors that go against this argument. The first being that we quite simply live a lot longer now than we did even fifty years ago so our teeth wear out before the rest of us and of course the second factor is that our high sugar diet helps to erode away the enamel making our teeth vulnerable to decay.
Mostly, we would hope to save our teeth with a few minor fillings but life doesn’t always work out that way and there are times when we will have to have a tooth or two removed. This can have quite an impact on our confidence if we have a gap in our tooth and can also make eating more difficult too. Because of this, we mostly look to replacing the lost tooth with an artificial one. For many years this has been in the form of a denture or possibly a bridge. Increasingly though, dental implants are the option most often chosen despite a higher cost, so why is this?
Well, first of all, let’s explain what a dental implant is. Contrary to what many people believe, it does not mean transplanting a tooth from one person to another but involves a titanium screw-like object being placed into the jawbone. Once this has been done, it is left in place to ‘osseointegrate’ with the bone. This essentially means that the bone grows around the implant and attaches itself to it. This provides an excellent strong base and onto this, a replacement tooth, usually in the form of a crown, can be placed. Once this has been allowed to settle, the patient is then left with a very strong substitute tooth and one which is able to bite and chew just like a normal tooth with no discomfort at all.
The procedure is done using a local anesthetic and is generally only performed on adults as placing an object in a growing person’s jaw can lead to problems further down the line.
Although dental implants are more expensive than dentures, they do come with a number of advantages.
- They are stronger and even toffees can be chewed
- They are cleaned whilst still in the mouth and are not inconveniently removed for cleaning
- They last for 20 years or more if taken care of and will feel the same after several years, unlike dentures which tend to become loose causing soreness and embarrassment.
- They look entirely natural and feel almost like a natural tooth too.
These advantages mean that for a growing number of people, the extra cost involved in having a dental implant is worth it and many report an increase in confidence for those who have had the procedure done.