Most people don’t worry about losing just one tooth. Maybe it gets knocked out during a game of rugby or another contact sport. Maybe it has become infected or is so badly decayed that the dentist has to extract it.
This is because, over time, the bone where lost teeth used to be loses its density. It also starts to shrink in width and height, the gums in the gap start to recede, possibly causing other teeth nearby to become looser, and maybe even start to tip into the gap.
This myriad of consequences from just one lost tooth affects the shape of your face. There is less distance between the chin and the tip of the nose, and the cheeks start to sag, the mouth begins to cave inwards, and you start to look older than you actually are.
This is what dental implants do away with – that comedy sketch look we associate with dentures – but is actually caused by missing tooth roots.
Dental implants stop the onset of bone loss. This is because the bone needs the constant stimulation of our teeth clacking together into our jawbones to get the bone to regenerate. Without that stimulation along the jawbone, it actually starts to melt away.
Dental implants are made of titanium, a metal with an amazing property, in that it stimulates bone tissue to grow and then fuses with it. That’s why it is used in so many medical prosthetics, of which dental implants are just one example.
The implants take a few months to fuse with the jawbone, but once they have the dentist puts an internal screw, called an abutment, into the implant. They can then attach a single artificial tooth crown to this, or a bridge of several teeth, or, indeed, an entire set of upper or lower teeth to several implants, usually four. These teeth are custom-made to be indistinguishable from your natural teeth and with proper care last a lifetime.