Close to 70% of adults between the ages of 35-44 have already lost at least one tooth and require a replacement to fix their smile. Dental implants require more work and downtime than other restoration options like bridges or dentures, but they also provide a more permanent, natural-looking result. However, not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants.
Dr. Margaret Culotta-Norton and Dr. Peter Grinc in Washington, DC, provide dental implant consultations and referrals to specialists who can help determine if you are a good candidate. If they can safely and securely place dental implants in your jawbone, we complete your smile with realistic restorations that look, feel, and function just like your original teeth.
The real danger of losing a tooth
When you lose a tooth, the bone in your jaw stops being stimulated by the tooth root, and begins to slowly dissolve. Over time, adjacent teeth become loose and also fall out. Losing just a single tooth and not replacing the root can lead to complete edentulousness (toothlessness.)
Bridges can span the gap where a tooth used to be and support the teeth on either side, but they can’t stop bone loss in the jaw. Likewise, dentures can be fitted to your mouth, but bone loss will continue, and you’ll have to keep replacing your dentures as your mouth changes shape.
Stopping bone loss with dental implants
Unlike bridges that go from tooth to tooth above the gums, or dentures which sit on the gums, dental implants are very small titanium posts that go through the gums into your jawbone, just like a real tooth root. The bone forms a solid connection with the post in a process known as osseointegration. With the post secured firmly, the new “root” keeps the jawbone stimulated, preventing loss.
One dental implant can support a single tooth restoration or multiple teeth restorations side by side. If you’ve lost all of your teeth, we can even create a full set of dentures capable of being supported by just four or six implants.
Requirements for dental implant candidates
If you are missing one or more teeth, ask us if you are a good candidate for dental implants. In most cases, dental implants can be placed as long as you:
Can receive appropriate sedation
Dental implant placement requires some form of sedation. Depending on your age, anxiety levels, pain tolerance, and general health, your implant surgeon may opt for local anesthesia, laughing gas (nitrous oxide), or IV sedation, which puts you in a twilight state so you remain conscious but relaxed and fear-free.
Retain sufficient bone to support implants
If teeth have been missing for a while, bone loss may mean your jawbone is too thin, shallow, or low-density to support post placement. In some cases, your oral surgeon may be able to place a bone graft to strengthen and increase the bone in your jaw, then continue with the implant procedure.
Have good gum health
The most common cause of tooth loss is periodontitis, or gum disease. Unhealthy gums can cause dental implant failure, so it’s critical to support gum health before, during, and after the dental implant process.
If you are a good candidate for dental implants, your oral surgeon will place the implant into your jawbone. After a month or so of healing, they can attach a collar, or abutment, and let the gum heal over it. Finally, we will create a custom tooth restoration, and place it on the abutment to completely finish your smile.
Wondering if you’re a good candidate for dental implants? To schedule a consultation and ask for a referral to an oral surgeon, call Dr. Culotta-Norton at 202-833-1111, or visit the contact page for more information.