Missing teeth are a serious problem. When teeth are missing in visible areas, it can cause you to be self-conscious about your smile; even if not visible, a missing tooth in the back of the mouth can cause adjacent teeth to tilt or shift, trapping food. The matching tooth above or below a missing tooth can start to erupt because of the lack of pressure on it when chewing, exposing the root of the tooth and causing decay. And if a large number – or all – of your teeth are missing, it can have a major negative impact on your diet as many foods become difficult or impossible to chew.
In the past, most missing teeth would be fixed with bridgework (which requires grinding down of adjacent teeth) or with dentures (which may slide around in the mouth, causing discomfort and self-consciousness). But today, there is a new solution to missing teeth: dental implants. The implant itself, usually made from titanium, is implanted into the jaw to fuse with the natural bone there; then a custom replacement tooth is permanently attached to the implant.
Being a good candidate for implants doesn't depend on age – implants are a good choice for retirees who have lost their teeth with age as well as young adults who have lost teeth in accidents. However, it is important that you be in good health. There are a few health problems that can impact your eligibility for dental implants.
Chronic conditions such as diabetes can interfere with the body's ability to heal. Long-term smoking has a similar effect on bone healing, depending on how much and how long you have been smoking. If your missing teeth have led to gum disease, bite alignment problems, or significant bone loss in the jaw, this will also complicate getting dental implants.
The good news is that these issues are rarely deal-breakers – they simply must be managed or treated before getting dental implants. The longer you wait to have these conditions treated, however, the more difficult it can be to get your mouth in shape for implants; putting off getting implants may just make the entire process take longer once you begin.
When installed by a dentist certified in implantology and properly cleaned and maintained like regular teeth, dental implants can last a lifetime. If you're interested in getting implants or have specific questions about how your medical history could affect your eligibility, look for a dentist credentialed by the American Academy of Implant Dentistry or certified by the American Board of Implantology. Contact a clinic like Prospect Periodontal & Implant Center for more information.