How Much Harm Can One Lost Tooth Do?
For many busy adults, the loss of a single tooth, especially if it’s in an inconspicuous location in the back of the mouth, doesn’t seem like a very big deal. Unfortunately, taking a cavalier attitude toward the loss of even a single tooth could have serious implications. Consider what happens when you lose a tooth:
- Biting and chewing food properly becomes more difficult.
- Properly enunciating the sounds necessary for normal speech can also become more difficult.
- An empty space in the dental arch prompts the remaining teeth to drift out of place. This can result in misalignment, a higher risk for tooth decay and gum disease, damage to the soft oral tissues, and even TMJ disorder.
- Once the root of a tooth is gone, the body suspends the flow of nutrients to that area of the jaw and diverts them elsewhere. As a result, the bone around the missing tooth begins to resorb. As the underlying support structure diminishes, the cheeks and lips sink inward, giving you an aged appearance. Even worse, the neighboring teeth feel the effects of jaw resorbtion and can loosen and require extraction.
In short, that single missing tooth can rapidly become a very big deal if it’s not replaced in a reasonable amount of time.
A Closer Look at Dental Implant Placement
A dental implant supported crown might be just the solution for your missing tooth. However, before proceeding with implant placement, Dr. Lathrop will first want to review your medical history, dental history, perform a full examination to determine the health and density of your jaw, and discuss all your options with you. Once you both decide to move forward with dental implants, you can expect at least three separate appointments:
- Initial consultation. At this first appointment, Dr. Lathrop will take impressions of the oral structures surrounding the missing tooth. Using a 3D x-ray unit, he can safely plan the optimal area for implant placement. In addition, you will both decide on which type of crown will top the implant. This information, along with color and shading specifications, will be sent to the dental lab for fabrication of the crown. Dr. Lathrop will also discuss your options regarding dental sedation options for the implant placement procedure. Oral sedation in combination with nitrous oxide might work best for some patients, while IV sedation administered by an anesthesiologist might be better for other patients.
- Surgical placement of the implant. At this second appointment, you will be fully sedated and your blood pressure, breathing, and blood oxygen levels closely monitored. Dr. Lathrop will create a precision-planned pilot hole and then insert the titanium implant post. At this point he can also place the abutment although, for certain types of implants, the abutment may need to be placed during a separate visit. Then he will close up the gum tissue to allow the implant to heal.
- Placing the restoration. This final part of the procedure can only occur once the implant has fully fused with the surrounding bone tissue, a process that generally takes 3-4 months. During your appointment, Dr. Lathrop will check the fit and coloring of the dental crown before securing it firmly into place.
Once in place, your new tooth will be look and function just like a real tooth. Dental implants can last well over 20 years, but the success of your implant depends on the level of care you take to keep it clean and healthy. Continue to brush and floss regularly and don’t skip your routine checkups and cleanings.