Losing a tooth leads to bone loss in the jaw, unless you take action.
I don’t have false teeth. Do you think I’d buy teeth like these? — Carol Burnett ROSEMARY BOGGS
In my last column I wrote about problems diabetics can have when high blood glucose affects their dental health. What if that happens and teeth have to be removed? Will tooth replacements — dental implants — work for diabetics?
I am working toward a dental implant, and am amazed at all that’s involved and how the process works.
Money is often an issue when considering dental work, but I understand the high cost of quality dentistry. You get what you pay for. The first step is to find the right dentist. You should feel good about the person whose hands you put your mouth in.
I found a dentist in North Little Rock. He’s friendly, professional and really knows his stuff. Plus he’s got a great staff that helps make me as comfortable and pain-free as possible.
There is a ton of information on this topic on the internet, but we should look for reliable sources. I found some good stuff on the websites of the Mayo Clinic (mayoclinic. org), Connecticut Maxillofacial Surgeons LLC (cmsllc. com) and the National Library of Medicine’s MedLine Plus (medlineplus.gov, including a helpful report at bit.ly/2lGxDJF).
Dental implant surgery is normally an outpatient process and performed in stages. When first discussing it with my doctor, the term “bone graft” was thrown around. Why is that?
When you lose teeth, the jaw can lose bone mass. Gum tissue decreases, and that can limit tooth replacement options. Facial appearance can change over time, with the distance between the nose and chin noticeably shortening.
But the dentist can graft to the jaw materials that stimulate bone growth at the site of the missing tooth. And if placed immediately after an extraction, a graft can prevent excessive bone loss and allow for dental implants.
When a tooth is extracted, a hole is left that is surrounded by alveolar bone (tooth-supporting bone). It only exists to support a tooth. When the tooth is gone, the body begins to resorb, or reabsorb, the bone unless it is replaced with another tooth, an implant or a “ridge preservation graft.”
The ridge graft is designed to fill the void left by the extracted tooth and hold the space while natural bone has the opportunity to fill in.
When I was sitting in my dentist’s chair I asked where the graft material came from. Thankfully, theirs comes in a little bottle. There are four possible sources — the patient, another human, an animal or synthetic material.
The graft acts as a platform for nearby bone to grow upon. Eventually the graft is absorbed by the body.
Healing the grafted bone site can take four or five months. Once your dentist deems you ready for the implants, a cut is made to open the gum and expose the bone. Holes are drilled into the bone where the implant’s metal post will be placed. Since it will serve as the tooth’s root, it’s implanted deep into the bone.
Some people will get one or several single-tooth implants. Others need a “partial,” a whole row.
There are two implant options:
Removable: This type is similar to the conventional removable denture. It contains “teeth” and a pink plastic gum. It’s mounted on a metal frame that’s attached to the implant abutment, and it snaps securely into place. It can be easily removed for repair or daily cleaning.
Fixed: The tooth or teeth are permanently screwed in and can’t be removed for cleaning or sleep.
As with most dental procedures, there will be discomforts like swelling, bruising, pain and minor bleeding. You may need pain medication or antibiotics. And if you are like me, you’ll get tired of soup.
But smile, it won’t last forever.