If you’re interested in replacing a missing tooth or teeth, dental implants may be an option for you. Most people are good candidates for implants. A good candidate should have the following:
- Healthy gums
- Enough bone to anchor the implants in the jaw — Some people who have lost bone in their jaw still can get implants, but first the bone must be rebuilt using special procedures.
- A commitment to taking very good care of the implanted teeth and surrounding gums — Daily brushing and flossing are essential. Regular visits to the dentist for follow-up are also important.
Some people may not be good candidates for implants. They include:
- Young people whose jawbones have not stopped growing
- Pregnant women
- Heavy smokers — Smoking hinders healing in the mouth. It can reduce the likelihood of a successful implant.
- Alcohol or substance abusers who are not prepared to follow the dentist’s instructions after placement of the implant, such as no smoking, and returning for follow-up. They also may be less likely to take good care of their teeth and gums, including the new crown over the implant.
- People who have received high-dose radiation treatment of the head or neck
- People with chronic diseases or systemic problems, including:
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Connective-tissue diseases
- Significant immune deficiencies
You still may be a good candidate for implants even if you have one of these conditions. It depends on the extent and severity of the condition.
- People who take certain medicines, such as steroids or drugs that suppress the immune system
- People who severely grind or clench their teeth — These habits can place too much pressure on the implants and increase the risk of failure.
Your dentist can evaluate you to see if you would be a good candidate for implants.
Implant therapy involves a team. A dental specialist places the implant or implants. This is usually an oral surgeon or a periodontist. Then a restorative dentist takes over. This is usually a general dentist or prosthodontist. The restorative dentist will make the crowns, bridges or dentures that the implant or implants will support.
Your first step is to make an appointment with one of these professionals for an evaluation. He or she will coordinate your treatment with the other members of the implant team.
Your initial evaluation will include an examination of your mouth and teeth and a thorough review of your medical and dental histories. Your mouth will be X-rayed. You might also have a computed tomography (CT) scan. This will provide information on the amount of bone in your jaw and its shape and where the nerves and sinuses are.
Finally, you and your dentist will discuss the options available to you. You will talk about the procedure, and its cost and possible complications. Your dentist will work with you to develop a treatment plan for your needs and preferences.