How Dental Implants Can Improve Your Overall Health

That missing molar or other tooth means more than a gap in your smile. Vanity aside, replacing that tooth can improve your overall health. Consider any boost in your appearance to be a bonus.

When a tooth is lost, the surrounding teeth tend to collapse into the space, says Dr. Shaun Rai, board certified oral and maxiofacial surgeon at Rai Oral Surgery and Dental Implants in Virginia Beach. The teeth in the other jaw also start shifting, Rai says.

As you chew with the missing and shifting teeth, an uneven distribution of biting forces occurs, which may lead to more tooth loss, Rai says. “That can compromise your nutritional status and your overall health.” 

An increasing number of studies show a link between a healthy mouth and a healthy body.

Implants are one good solution. Improved bone grafting techniques mean more patients are eligible, Rai says. Less invasive surgical techniques lead to fewer complications and a faster recovery.

Many patients are surprised to learn that oral surgeons have the ability and expert training to deliver outpatient general anesthesia in their office in a safe, cost-effective manner, Rai says.

“The safety record is remarkable,” he says. “It’s a testament to the training that oral surgeons go through.”

Before placing an implant or implants, the dentist ensures your teeth, gums and jaw tissue are healthy. Then, a metal, screw-like post is placed in the jaw. Then at a separate appointment, after it heals, a crown is placed over that post. The procedures are done under sedation, local or general anesthesia.

Average cost per implant is about $4,250. This includes the actual implant (the post that replaces the root) and the crown (the tooth portion).

“In the last 20 years, implants have revolutionized dentistry and how we’ve replaced teeth,” Rai says. “They are now the standard of care. Many people who have missed out in the past are now candidates.”

That’s good news to the 25 percent of adults over 65 who have lost all of their teeth, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

“Patients who have unfortunately lost all their teeth can now utilize implants to help replace their missing teeth in a number of different ways with both fixed and removable dentures and prostheses,” Rai says.

Traditional dentures can cost as little as $300. But patients are commonly unhappy with lower dentures in particular due to poor retention, which leads to sliding around, Rai says.

For more stability, an implant-supported overdenture is a removable denture secured in place by four implants, Rai says. The denture snaps into place on the four implants. The patient still removes the denture each night for cleaning.

“It’s significantly better for the patient compared to conventional dentures,” Rai says of this option. “Implant overdentures provide greater stability and retention of the dentures than without them.”

Overdentures have been available more than 20 years. Cost of each of the implants is $2,000, for $8,000 total. Mid-range to high-end dentures cost $1,000 to $5,000.

Another option instead of traditional dentures for these patients is a traditional fixed dental prosthesis secured by six to 10 implants. This approach has been available for at least 20 years. “However, placing a greater number of implants requires additional surgery, and possibly bone grafting.”

 A newer option, supported by 10 years of research, is a hybrid fixed dental prosthesis secured by only four implants.

This semi-permanent prosthesis is not removable by the patient—no dentures in a cup overnight.  Once a year, the dentist or oral surgeon will unscrew the prosthesis to make sure the teeth and jaw tissue are healthy, Rai says.

This hybrid fixed prosthesis is an excellent alternative to both traditional dentures that can slip and the traditional fixed dental prosthesis. Like the traditional fixed prosthesis, this is a full replacement of teeth that stays in a patient’s mouth, he says. Because fewer implants are needed, this approach requires less surgery and bone grafting than the traditional prosthesis.

Average cost per jaw is $25,000.

“It’s an investment for the patient,” he says.

Results can be significant as patients don’t have to worry about dentures slipping and can eat a wide range of foods again. The hybrid dental prosthesis help patients chew better and lead to overall physical and mental health, he says. “They can change a person’s life.”

Here are some tips for keeping a perfect smile.

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