When Dental Implants Are Right for You (and What to Do If They’re Not)
By Dr. Scott Rice
Dental implants are the best tooth replacement option available. Unfortunately, though, not everyone is a perfect candidate. How do you know if dental implants are right for you? The only way to know for sure is to talk to a dentist, but here are some basic guidelines.
The Ideal Candidate for Dental Implants
Most people who have lost a tooth recently or who are facing the removal of a tooth are candidates for dental implants. In an ideal world, the dental implant candidate:
- Smokes less than 20 cigarettes a day
- Has good oral health–gum disease is controlled
- Is healthy enough for surgery
- Has adequate bone to support implants
If you meet all these qualifications, you’re ready to get your dental implants right away. If not, you may need to take steps before you can get dental implants.
Quit Smoking for Dental Implants
Smoking will increase your risk of dental implant failure. Smoking increases your risk of gum disease, which is bad for implants (see below), but it also impacts bone healing.
Dental implants in smokers sometimes fail because the body doesn’t build bone around the implants. Instead, it creates a soft, fibrous tissue that can’t secure the implants in place. There is some evidence that nicotine can increase the risk of implant failure, so this means that even if you’re not smoking, but are using nicotine gum or e-cigarettes, you might still have elevated risk.
And chewing tobacco is just as bad or worse.
Treat Gum Disease
Gum disease is when an infection attacks the gums, bones, and ligaments that hold your teeth in. It’s the leading cause of tooth loss among adults. It can also lead to dental implant failure because the bacteria will attack the bone around the implant as well. Treating gum disease will give you a good chance of success with your dental implants.
For a healthy individual, there are few risks associated with dental implant surgery, but some people have health conditions that may lead to dangers. In particular, sleep apnea and heart conditions may result in anesthesia-related risks. Talk to your doctor about whether you can get surgery, and what you should do to get in shape.
If You Have Limited Bone
For people with limited bone to support dental implants, there are many options.
A bone graft may be recommended, which may be actual bone or a bone substitute. Sometimes a bone graft may be placed when you get your dental implants. Other times, you may have to wait for your graft to heal before you can get your dental implants.
Other times, Mini implants or special angled implants can sometimes be used to make sure your dental implants find enough bone to support them, even if you’ve lost bone in the area where the implants are being placed.
If All Else Fails
And, of course, sometimes your dentist may not have good options for making you a dental implant candidate. In this case, you may have to look at other treatments. The good news is, these are usually pretty good options.
Dental bridges have their limitations, but they are still attractive and long-lasting restorations. Even dentures, which have in the past been maligned for poor fit and function, are experiencing a revival. New neuromuscular dentures provide better fit, appearance, and support than traditional dentures.
Talking to your cosmetic dentist is the best way to find out which is the right choice for restoring your attractive smile.
About The Author
Dr. Scott Rice is a Crown Council dentist based in Irvine, CA, where he practices with his son, Dr. Taylor Rice at Rice Dentistry. Dr. Rice has been recognized by many prestigious dental organizations for his extensive experience and training.