Out of all the options available for replacing missing teeth, dental implants are considered to be the gold standard of tooth replacement options. Although there are various reasons for this, one of the most compelling reasons is the ability of dental implants to preserve bone mass. If you are considering having dental implants placed, you may be wondering how this is possible and why other tooth replacement options don’t offer this same benefit.
In order to understand how dental implants preserve bone mass, we need to take a brief look at how natural teeth function. Each tooth is composed of a crown, which is the visible part of the tooth that sits above the gum line, and a root, which is the part of the tooth that extends deep into the gums and jaw bone. When you eat, the forces of biting or chewing are transmitted to your jaw bone. Absorbing the force associated with biting and chewing keeps your jawbone stimulated, which essentially tells the body that bone mass is needed in this area to withstand that force.
When one or more teeth is lost, however, the jawbone beneath the missing tooth no longer receives stimulation from biting or chewing. Unfortunately, this tells the body that bone mass is no longer needed in this area since there is no longer force being applied. This triggers a process known as bone resorption, where the body leeches bone mass from the jaw and distributes it to other parts of the body. This ultimately results in the deterioration of the jawbone, which can eventually lead to more missing teeth, as well as a change in the facial structure over time.
To prevent this from happening, dental implants can be used as a replacement for missing teeth. Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made from titanium that are implanted into the jawbone. After the dental implant is placed and has healed, a dental prosthetic is attached. For a single missing tooth, an implant-supported crown is used. Implant-supported bridges or implant-supported dentures can also be used to replace multiple missing teeth.
Although they are not natural teeth, they function in the same way that a natural tooth would. While eating, the dental prosthetic transmits the force of biting and chewing to the jawbone through the implant. In this way, the implant not only acts as a tooth replacement option, but also as a way to replace the tooth root. Replacing the tooth root allows the jawbone to continue being stimulated in the same way it would with a natural tooth. As mentioned above, jawbone stimulation helps to naturally preserve the bone mass.
Unfortunately, other tooth replacement options like dental bridges or dentures cannot offer this same stimulation. This is because these options only replace the missing tooth and do not offer a replacement for the tooth root. This ultimately means that even though the tooth has been replaced, the jawbone will still not receive stimulation since there is no structure to transmit the force of biting or chewing. Therefore, dental bridges and dentures cannot preserve the jawbone and will eventually need to be replaced as bone loss occurs and the facial structure changes shape.
Overall, dental implants are considered to be the gold standard of tooth replacement options due to the fact that they preserve the jawbone and facial structure. This is accomplished by their structure, which restores both the missing tooth and the tooth root. The use of an artificial tooth root is the main reason why dental implants are able to provide lasting results that other tooth replacement options simply cannot offer. If you have one or more missing teeth, talk to your dentist about what dental implants can offer you.
Dr. Gerard J. Lemongello Jr. graduated from the University of Florida College of Dentistry and has been in private practice since 1987. His focus is on cosmetic and comprehensive restorative rehabilitative dentistry. He is a member of the American Dental Association, Florida Dental Association and Academy of General Dentistry, and is an accredited member of the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry.