Disease or an injury could make you lose one or several teeth. If this happens, you can experience complications like defective speech and rapid bone loss. You can also experience changes to your chewing patterns, which could cause discomfort. For years, bridges and dentures were the only treatment options for people with missing teeth. You can use dental implants to replace a lost tooth and improve your health and quality of life. If you have missing teeth and require high-quality dental implants in Santa Clarita, our experienced dentists at Valencia Advanced Dentistry at Copperhill Smiles can help.

Understanding Dental Implants

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root, usually made of titanium. It is surgically inserted in the jawbone to assist in holding a replacement tooth, called a crown. Implants are the best treatment option for individuals who have lost their teeth because of injury, periodontal disease, or other reasons. Dental implants resemble natural teeth, meaning no one will know you have them. They also feel and function like natural teeth.

Types Of Dental Implants

There are several types of dental implants available. Depending on your needs, your dentist will help you choose the best option. The common types of dental implants include:

3-On-6 Dental Implants

3-on-6 dental implants are a variation of denture-supporting bridges. These implants have three separate lower or upper jaw bridges, each supporting six dentures. The 3-on-6 implants are best suited for patients who have lost their teeth and require permanent replacement rather than typical dentures. The teeth can be removed for examination and cleaning whenever necessary, although they offer a permanent option for tooth replacement.

All-On-4 Dental Implants

All-on-4 dental implants are suitable for patients who have lost several teeth. These implants are designed to replace a whole jaw of lost teeth. The four implants are placed strategically in the jawline, with four crowns supporting an entire set of tooth replicas. The teeth can also be removed for examination and cleaning whenever necessary.

Implant-Supported Bridge

Dentists can recommend implant-supported bridges for patients with several continuous missing teeth. In this case, the dentist will put a dental implant on each side of the missing teeth to support all the lost teeth. The replaced teeth feel and look like the natural teeth. At the end of each implant, the bridge will have two crowns connected by teeth or tooth replicas.

Single-Tooth Implant

Single-tooth implants are suitable for patients with a single missing tooth. Even if you only have one missing tooth, you should replace it for function, comfort, and aesthetics. This implant consists of a metal screw inserted into the gum tissue or implanted into the jawline, and a crown placed on top of the screw. Your dentist will take precise measurements of your teeth for the replacement to feel and appear precisely like natural teeth.

Endosteal And Subperiosteal Dental Implants

Dental implants mainly fall into two categories:

Endosteal Dental Implants

Endosteal implants involve placing the implants into the original jawbone. There is a higher success rate because the implants are composed of titanium, ensuring the body accepts the screw or implant. Endosteal implants are the most common dental implants. You will hardly feel any difference in your jawbone once the screw fuses with the natural bone.

Subperiosteal Dental Implants

Subperiosteal dental implants are recommended for patients who have lost their jawbone. You are a good candidate for subperiosteal implants if you have weak jawbones that cannot withstand endosteal implants. The subperiosteal implants sit above the jawline but below the gum. The only difference between endosteal and subperiosteal implants is that subperiosteal implants are not surgically placed into your jawbone.

Reasons For Seeking Dental Implants

You could lose teeth for several reasons, necessitating dental implants. Some of the causes of tooth loss include:

Trauma To The Mouth

Falls, injuries to the mouth, or accidents are some of the causes of tooth loss. If your teeth suffer damage or fall off due to trauma, dental implants can help. Dental implants come in handy when you have a knocked-off tooth or a tooth damaged beyond repair.

Aging And Medications

Old age can cause dental issues, some of which could lead to the loss of teeth, hence the need for dental implants. People aged 55 years or more could experience jawbone issues that eventually lead to loosening of teeth. Medication for heart disease, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol can also increase the risk of tooth loss. If you use these medications, they make your mouth dry, which increases the rate of tooth decay.

Gum Disease

Periodontal disease, or gum disease, can cause tooth loss, making you a candidate for dental implants. Tartar and other disease-causing bacteria easily hide in the gums when they wear away, which leads to inflammation. Inflammation will lead to the teeth loosening and falling out of place. You will need dental implants to prevent further jawbone deterioration if the teeth fall out.

Tooth Decay

Poor nutrition and a lack of proper oral hygiene can cause cavities or tooth decay. Tooth decay is the primary cause of tooth loss that results from insufficient restorative remedies for the affected tooth. You need to visit the dentist regularly for routine checkups and cleanings. This will help the dentist detect and treat tooth decay before it causes tooth loss. Adults should get dental checkups at least once every six months to prevent dental problems.

Whether You Are a Candidate For Dental Implants

Dental implants are not suitable for every person. Below are some of the factors that determine whether you are a good candidate for dental implants:

Health Status

The dentist will assess your health status before recommending dental implants. Dental implant surgery comes with certain risks, just like any other surgery. Therefore, the dentist must understand the medical conditions that could pose a risk to you during the operation. Individuals with gum diseases, diabetes, or heavy smokers are not eligible for tooth implant surgeries. The dentist will always work with your physician to determine your surgical readiness.

Your Age

Your age could significantly determine your readiness for a dental implant. A dental implant procedure is suitable for adults with fully developed facial features. Dentists recommend this procedure for people aged 16 and above for girls and 18 for boys. The dentist could devise an interim solution for the missing tooth if the patient is too young to undergo the implant procedure. The dentist will employ the interim solution until the patient attains the right age or the dentist establishes that the patient's bones and facial features are fully developed.

The Strength of Your Jawbone

Your dentist will evaluate the strength of your jawbone before determining whether you are fit enough for a dental implant procedure. When you lose a tooth, the bone in the space starts to deteriorate. The bone could be too weak to support a dental implant, especially if you delay undergoing the procedure.

Your dentist will perform a special scan to determine the quality of your jaw bone. The scan will reveal if you have sufficient bone for the operation. Sometimes, the dentist will first perform a bone grafting procedure if you have an insufficient jawbone. The bone grafting procedure will assist the body in regenerating the tissue and bone.

Advantages Of Dental Implants

Dental implants have several advantages, including:

  • Since dental implants provide independent support, they reduce stress on the remaining teeth.
  • Dental implants assist in preserving the jawbone, which prevents the appearance of aging lines.
  • Unlike dentures that must be replaced after a few years, dental implants last for long periods, even a lifetime, depending on how well you take care of them.
  • Unlike removable dentures, whereby you must be careful about what you eat, dental implants make eating easier.
  • You will feel more comfortable with dental implants than with removable dentures.
  • You will not experience speech problems with dental implants because they fit perfectly in your mouth.
  • Dental implants improve the appearance of your teeth and mouth because they are designed to look and feel like real teeth.

Limitations of Dental Implants

The notable limitations of dental implants include:

  • They increase the risk of nerve damage.
  • They risk damage or injury to the gums and blood vessels.
  • Dental implants increase the risk of viral and bacterial infections if the dentist fails to clean the implant area properly.

The Procedure of a Dental Implant

You should follow specific steps to ensure a successful dental implant procedure. A dental implant procedure could take a long time, sometimes several months. The process could also take a shorter period, depending on your needs.

The following are the steps you should take for a successful dental implant procedure:

Evaluation And Preparation

Evaluation and tooth preparation are vital to ensuring a successful procedure. The dentist will first extract the damaged tooth if it is still in the socket. The dentist will assess the jawbone in case the tooth is missing. The assessment of the jawbone will be done purposefully to ascertain if it is sufficient to hold the dental implant.

Your dentist can recommend bone grafting if the jawbone is insufficient. The grafting can be natural or synthetic. Natural grafting involves taking a bone from another body part and fusing it with the jawbone. Most dentists prefer this method because it ensures 100% fusion of the bone since the bones are from the same body. On the other hand, synthetic bone grafting involves grafting and fusing an external bone with the jawbone. Bone grafting will take a few months to heal. Therefore, your dentist will wait until your jawbone is fully healed before proceeding with the implant procedure.

Placement of the Dental Implant

The dentist will cut the gum during implant placement to expose the jawbone. He/she will drill a hole into the bone and place a metal rod in the bone to serve as the tooth root. The dentist can place a temporary, removable tooth replacement as the implant heals significantly if the front teeth are affected. The dentist can also leave the implant open in the back teeth.

Healing and Integration

This is the stage where the implant will fuse with the jawbone, usually after a few months. This stage cannot be hastened because the main idea is to ensure the implant is strong enough to support an artificial tooth or dental crown.

Placement of Abutment

Once the implant has completely healed, placement of the abutment will follow. The purpose of the abutment is to extend the implant above the gums. Abutment placement typically involves repeatedly cutting the healed gum to expose the implant. The dentist will then put the abutment on the exposed implant, and another healing process starts.

Placing The Crown

Once the exposed abutment and gums heal, the dentist will place the crown or artificial tooth. The dentist will measure the empty socket and take an impression of your missing tooth. The next step involves creating a crown in the lab, an exact copy of your original teeth. The dentist will place the crown on the abutment.

How To Take Care Of Dental Implants

Dental implants restore your smile after tooth loss and allow you to regain the normal function of your mouth. Modern implants look like original teeth, thus allowing you to chew and smile confidently. Dental implants, however, require proper care. Learning how to clean your implants to maintain their appearance and ensure their longevity is essential. You could face many issues if you fail to maintain your dental implants. If you neglect your oral hygiene, bone loss, pain, discomfort, and inflammation are all possible outcomes.

A rigorous oral health regimen keeps your implants clean. Otherwise, you could develop peri-implantitis. Peri-implantitis is a gum disease that infects implants. Fortunately, you can take care of dental implants and prevent peri-implantitis using the following methods:

Secure A Mouth Guard For Teeth Grinding

Also known as bruxism, teeth grinding can damage dental implants and regular teeth. Excessive force exerts a lot of pressure on your implants that can have a long-term effect. You should opt for a custom mouth guard to protect your dental implants if your dentist diagnoses you with bruxism.

Regular Visits To The Dentist

Regular visits to your dentist are one of the best ways to keep your mouth healthy. Visit your dentist at least twice a year. This will help prevent tartar and plaque buildup and enable you to deal with developing dental problems early. Regular dental visits allow the dentist to confirm that everything functions correctly if you have dental implants. Your dentist will examine the implants to ensure no signs of damage or peri-implantitis.

Avoid smoking

Smoking is incredibly harmful to a person's oral health. When you smoke, you put yourself at high risk for developing several health problems, including cancer and tooth decay. Smoking slows down the healing process when it comes to dental implants. Smoking also inflames and weakens the gums around the implant. Additionally, smoking could also stain your new dental crowns.

Reduce Alcohol Intake

Alcohol promotes tooth decay in regular teeth because it has high sugar levels. Alcohol is also harmful to dental implants. It slows the healing process post-dental implant surgery and speeds up plaque accumulation. You should avoid alcohol consumption for six months after your dental implant procedure.

Avoid Hard, Hot, Or Sticky Foods

You should avoid eating hard food after dental implants because it can break or damage them. Similarly, sticky foods can promote plaque buildup because they can adhere to the implants. Avoid the following in the first few days following a dental implant installation:

  • Steak.
  • Dried fruits.
  • Caramel.
  • Crusty bread.
  • Apples.
  • Carrots.
  • Potato chips.
  • Hard-shell tacos.
  • Hard candies.
  • Ice.

Avoid hot beverages because your gums could still be sensitive from dental surgery.

Practice Good Oral Hygiene

Once you obtain dental implants, you should continue to brush your teeth at least twice daily. You should use non-abrasive products to cushion your implants for years to come. In this case, you need implant-specific floss, non-alcoholic mouthwash, and sensitivity toothpaste.

However, avoid chlorine cleansers, bleach, and baking soda because they can permanently damage or weaken your implants. You must also avoid intensely flavored oral hygiene products like cinnamon or mint because they can cause discomfort.

Flossing Daily

Flossing your teeth is essential because it removes plaque and food particles, which accumulate between the teeth and cannot be removed by brushing alone. Flossing is equally important if you have dental implants. Plaque can quickly build up around implants, which is bad for oral health. Look for implant-friendly floss. You should floss daily with unwaxed tape or implant-specific dental floss.

Avoid Abrasive Toothpaste

Any form of abrasion can cause harm to your implants. Choose a special, low-abrasive toothpaste. Ordinary toothpaste is highly abrasive because it is meant to remove stains and plaque. However, too much roughness wears down the dental implants and enamel.

Use a Soft-Bristled Toothbrush

Avoid hard-bristled toothbrushes because they are bad for implants and can damage the enamel. Hard-bristled toothbrushes can easily scratch the surface of your teeth, thus causing harm and shortening their lifespan.

After undergoing a dental implant procedure, you should exclusively use soft-bristled toothbrushes. Nylon brushes are recommended since they have pliable and gentle bristles that cannot damage your implants.

Signs of Failed Dental Implants

Things can go wrong during a dental implant procedure, mainly if a skilled and competent dentist does not perform the procedure. Signs of a failed dental implant include:

Teeth Grinding

Teeth grinding occurs because of misaligned teeth, missing teeth, or stress. It is a permanent dental implant failure that you experience while sleeping. You will experience pressure where the implant is located and continuous pain in your gums along the jawbone.

Sudden Allergic Reactions

Some people could experience allergic reactions because implants are made of titanium alloy. Signs of an allergic reaction include a tingling sensation, swelling around the gums, and a loss of taste.

Implant Micro-movements

Sometimes, your surgeon can perform a tooth replacement procedure immediately after implantation. This procedure takes a short time to heal compared to implantation and waiting for it to integrate with the jawbone before putting the tooth in.

You will enjoy fewer checkup visits in the beginning. Unfortunately, the procedure can exert excess stress on the jawbone if it is not strong enough. Micro-movements of the implant can be detected through a dental x-ray.

Swollen Gums

After the dental implant procedure, minor swelling is expected. This will disappear after a few days. However, if the swelling continues, you have a reason to worry. If the swelling is big and red, you could have an infection. The infection can spread to the rest of your mouth if it is not treated.

Shifting And Loose Implants

You will not experience unusual sensations if your dental implant is placed correctly. If the implant is wrongly placed on your gums, you could feel it wobble when you touch it, eat it, or talk. Set up a consultation with your dentist immediately if you discover a shifting or loose dental implant.

Difficulty While Chewing And Biting

It could be a sign of dental implant failure if you find it hard to chew or bite food after a dental implant procedure. Implants are made to feel and function like natural teeth, meaning you should not have difficulty chewing food.

Cost of Dental Implants

The cost of dental implants will depend on the type of implant and whether you acquire one or several dental implants. A single dental implant usually costs between $1,500 and $2,000. Other costs that should be considered include pre-and postoperative care, office visits, tooth and root extraction, abutments, and dental crowns. The cost for these could be $1,500 to $2,800. Therefore, a single implant could cost you as much as $3,000 to $4,800.

Dental implants are typically not covered by dental insurance. However, it is always advisable to consult your insurer to determine if your insurance plan covers dental implants. 

Find a Dentist Near Me

Tooth loss is common and can occur due to tooth decay, gum disease, or injuries. You could be a good candidate for dental implants if you have missing teeth. A dental implant is an artificial tooth root that serves as an anchor for replacement teeth. If you need high-quality dental implants in Santa Clarita, contact Valencia Advanced Dentistry at Copperhill Smiles. Call us at 661-775-7717 to speak to one of our dentists.