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Dental Implants In-Depth
Houston, TX


Rendering of a jaw with a single dental implant and crown from Alexandra Garcia, DDS, MS in Houston, TXYour teeth perform numerous essential tasks every single day. They make eating a variety of foods possible, aid in speech and provide you with a beautiful, confident smile. When you suffer tooth loss, all of these functions are significantly impacted. At Alexandra Garcia, DDS, MS, we can replace your missing teeth with dental implants, providing you with a modern alternative to traditional bridges and dentures. While a more recent treatment, dental implants have quickly become the most popular choice available.

How Do You Lose Teeth?


There are several different causes of tooth loss. The most common cause is gum disease, sometimes also referred to as periodontal disease. When you have gum disease, oral bacteria and plaque irritate your gum tissue, causing it to become inflamed. When the tissue is inflamed, it begins to pull away from the teeth, forming pockets. Bacteria and food particles become trapped in the pockets, and the bacteria begin attacking your periodontal ligaments and your jawbone. Without treatment, this leads to your teeth becoming loose and eventually falling out. Other common causes of tooth loss include:
•  Facial trauma. This can directly cause tooth loss, or your teeth can become severely damaged and require extraction.
•  Severe tooth decay.
•  Bruxism, or the grinding and clenching of your teeth.


What Happens When You Lose Teeth?


No matter how you lose your teeth, the effects are always the same. The most obvious effect of tooth loss is the impact the event has on your smile. The quality of your once beautiful, vibrant smile deteriorates when you have gaps in your mouth. This can also have a significant impact on your confidence, causing it to plummet. You may find that you hide your smile from everyone around you, which can have a significant impact on the impressions that you leave.

Your smile is not the only thing affected by tooth loss. When you lose your teeth, your ability to eat is affected. You may find it difficult to enjoy your favorite foods. Your speech suffers, and you may have trouble communicating. Under the gums, tooth loss also causes the deterioration of your jawbone. The stimulation that your teeth once provided the bone is weakened, which results in fewer nutrients being sent. The bone grows weak and eventually changes shape. This can lead to other issues such as alignment issues with your healthy teeth, bruxism, and TMJ disorder.

What are Dental Implants?


Dental implants are a treatment for replacing missing teeth, providing an alternative to bridges and dentures. Dental implants involve the use of three different pieces.

•  The implant. The actual implant is a small titanium post that is surgically inserted into your jawbone. The post is gradually integrated into your jaw as you heal, as your natural bone fuses to the material. Eventually, it becomes a stable root that is then used to support your replacement teeth.
•  The abutment. The abutment is the connector, which is placed at the exposed end of the implant and provides stability for your teeth.
•  The crown. Ceramic crowns are used to replace the visible portions of your missing teeth, restoring your abilities to eat and speak, as well as the beauty of your smile. Ceramic perfectly imitates the color and light reflection properties of your natural teeth, providing a beautiful, seamless, completely natural result.


How Did Dental Implants Come About?


Dental implants are older than you might think. While the implants that we use to replace your teeth today are the result of modern research, the actual practice of implants has been around for centuries. The earliest evidence of dental implants dates back to 600 AD. The mandible of a young woman was found with bits of seashell and bone in it where a tooth used to be. The most interesting thing about this discovery was that her natural bone had begun to fuse to her implant, showing that the implant had been placed while she was still alive.

This was not the only instance of ancient dental implants. There is evidence from all over the world. Ancient Egyptian mummies have been found with gold wire in their jaws. Middle Eastern skulls have been found with ivory in place of teeth. Moreover, a Roman soldier was found with an iron implant.

Modern day implants are the result of an accidental discovery in the 1950s when a Swedish orthopedic surgeon by the name of Per-Ingvar Bråenmark was researching bone healing and regeneration. In his studies, he implanted a titanium cylinder into a rabbit femur. Upon his procedure to remove it, he discovered that the bone had begun to fuse to the cylinder. What Bråenmark had discovered was osseointegration. This accidental discovery led him to continue further research into this phenomenon. All of his research led to the implantation of the first dental implants in 1965.

Even after this discovery, he continued to research ways to improve their stability and reliability. There are still discoveries being made today. The implants we use now have several significant differences from the first implants. There are now implants of varying circumferences and lengths, making them more widely available for several different situations. Implants today also have a rough texture, compared to the smooth texture of the first titanium implants. This texture improves osseointegration, aiding in making them more stable. There is even research into other materials to provide an alternative to titanium, with Zirconia providing the most promise.

Implants for Numerous Needs


Implants are an extremely versatile treatment. Whether you are missing one tooth, many teeth, or all of your teeth, implants may be the right solution for you. Types of implants include:
•  Single Tooth Implants : As the name suggests, a single tooth implant is used to replace a single missing tooth. One post supports one crown.
•  Multiple tooth implants (also known as complete fixed bridges or partial implant supported bridges ): A multiple tooth implant uses one or more titanium posts to support two or more crowns. The number of implants needed depends upon the number of teeth you are missing and your jawbone.
•  Implant Supported Dentures : An implant supported denture uses 6 to 8 posts to support an entire arch of replacement teeth.
•  All-On-4®
•  Treatment Concept : This treatment is used to replace an entire arch of missing teeth when your jaw is missing too much bone mass to support the necessary number of posts used in an implant supported denture. This treatment uses only four implants, placed strategically within your jaw to make the most of your remaining bone mass. With this treatment, you can avoid the need for a bone graft.


Dental Implant Procedure


Getting your dental implants requires a surgical procedure that is done under a local anesthetic as well as sedation. We begin your procedure by making small incisions in your gum tissue, exposing the bone beneath. We then drill small holes into the bone and place the posts inside of them. Next, your gum tissue is sutured closed around the posts, leaving a small amount exposed above the gum line. Finally, temporary teeth are placed on the posts to restore some function to your mouth while you heal.

Because implants require a surgical procedure, there is a recovery period involved. You will be provided with specific aftercare instructions that will help you to deal with common postsurgical issues and aid in proper recovery. The length of time that it takes you to heal will depend upon several factors, including how many implants are placed. It can take anywhere from several weeks to several months to completely heal. As you heal, your bone fuses to the posts, integrating them into the jaw and turning them into stable roots. We closely monitor this progress to make sure everything is going smoothly.

Once you have fully healed from surgery, we then begin the process of creating your permanent crowns. First, we remove the temporary teeth. Next, we place the abutments on the posts and take an impression of your mouth. This impression is sent to a dental lab, where your new teeth are designed and created. Once they are finished, the teeth are sent back, and we secure them into place with small screws.

Caring for Your Implants


Unlike dentures, implants do not require special care. However, they still need to be cared for. They can, and should, be brushed and flossed just like your natural teeth. Even though the crowns cannot develop cavities, they can still collect plaque and bacteria, both of which can contribute to gum disease. If gum disease goes untreated, your gums can pull away from the crowns, creating pockets. The bacteria that fall into these pockets can then attack your jawbone around the implants. The bone grows weak, and your implant can become loose. The longer you go without treatment, the more likely you are to experience implant failure. Even if all of your teeth have been replaced with implants, it is important to continue brushing and flossing like normal as well as having regular dental cleanings and exams.

Benefits of Dental Implants


Dental implants offer several different benefits:
•  They function and feel just like your natural teeth. They also look completely natural. Because the ceramic crowns mimic the properties of natural enamel, no one, not even you, will be able to tell the difference between the crowns and your actual teeth.
•  Implants are more comfortable than dentures. Dentures rest directly on your gums, which put pressure on the tissue that it was not designed to handle. Not only that, but dentures can come loose and rub your gums, causing painful denture sores. With implants, the crowns are supported by the titanium posts, which are in your jawbone like your actual tooth roots. There is no pressure on your gums.
•  Implants are permanent. The crowns are secured into place on the posts that integrate into your jawbone. The teeth are not removed unless professional maintenance is needed. Additionally, because the posts are integrated into the jaw, they are much more stable, and you do not need to worry about your teeth slipping out of place.
•  Implants protect the health of your jawbone. The posts imitate the functions of your natural tooth roots. This means that they can stimulate the bone, a benefit that no other tooth replacement option can provide. When the bone is stimulated, the message that is sent to your body is restored, and your body begins to send the necessary amount of nutrients again. This helps to stop the bone loss that follows tooth loss, maintaining the integrity of your jaw.


Are Dental Implants Right for Me?


While dental implants are a highly popular option, and one preferred by both tooth loss patients and dental practitioners, they are not the ideal solution for everyone. To determine your candidacy, you first need a thorough consultation. There are several factors that determine whether or not dental implants are right for you.

•  You are missing teeth. Whether you have lost one tooth or many, dental implants can replace those teeth. If you have not lost teeth yet, but you need to have teeth extracted, dental implants may be considered.
•  You are an adult. You are never too old for dental implants. Whether you are in your 30s or your 80s, implants offer the same benefits. You can, however, be too young. The jaw continues to develop into your late teens to early 20s, and placing an implant in an underdeveloped jaw can have serious effects on your oral health. Children who have lost a permanent tooth will need an alternative replacement until the jaw stops growing.
•  You are healthy. You need to be in good health to undergo surgery. Oral health issues first need to be treated, and any chronic health conditions need to be well managed.
•  You do not smoke. Smoking and the use of other tobacco products can slow the ability of your body to heal, which can otherwise greatly increase your risk for developing infections. If you smoke, it is recommended that you quit.
•  Your jawbone is good condition. Implants rely on your jawbone for stability. If you do not have enough bone mass remaining in your jaw, the implants may not fully integrate. This can lead to loose implants or failure to integrate at all. If you do not have enough bone mass in your jaw at the time of your consultation, you may first need to undergo a bone graft surgery.


With dental implants, we can help to not only restore the functions and aesthetics of your mouth, but we can also help to restore your quality of life. Call Alexandra Garcia, DDS, MS today for more information and to schedule your consultation to find out if dental implants are the right solution for you at (346) 250-2930.

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