Everyone wants a full, beautiful smile, but circumstances such as decay and gum disease keep some people from having that perfect smile. According to the American College of Prosthodontists, more than 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth —and that number is expected to grow.
The steps to restoring a smile can be pricey, and people often struggle to decide whether an imperfect smile is worth fixing. Insurance policies’ reimbursement limits are often lower than the cost of these procedures, which means patients are often paying a large portion out of pocket for these solutions. Consequently, many are willing to put off treatment – but what are the costs of doing so?
Teeth on the Move
Trying to save money by not replacing a tooth may end up costing more in the long run. Beyond creating a gap in a smile, a missing tooth can impact the smile in other less visible ways. The teeth work together as a unit, so when one fails, the rest must take on extra stress.
When chewing or biting, the forces are distributed among all the teeth. Without a full dentition, the remaining teeth must compensate for the extra pressure. The back teeth shift because they cannot maintain the vertical height of the bite and face, and the front teeth — the most visible ones — often splay forward.
In addition, teeth grow crookedly and migrate toward empty spaces in the jaw. They will grow into empty spaces above or below them since they have nothing to stop them. All these changes can result in misaligned smiles that are hard to clean — which could cause even more tooth loss.
Losing Bone Density
The teeth serve as the most visible part of the smile, but the jawbone provides the framework not only for the smile but also for the face. Tooth roots continually stimulate bone growth to help maintain its strength and shape; without this stimulation — usually from the natural forces of chewing — the bone loses density and size. The effect is cyclical as the bone deteriorates faster as it gets thinner.
When the volume of your jawbones decreases, visible changes occur in your face that can make you look older. Without the proper support, wrinkles increase, corners of the mouth droop, and lips withdraw into the mouth as jaw and face height also decrease.
The Solution? Dental Implants
These additional complications are long-term costs that many people don’t foresee when they consider the price of replacing lost teeth. Some people will forego treatment because they think losing a tooth isn’t a big deal. Those who decide to replace the tooth must weigh the various options, such as removable dentures, bridges and implants.
Dentures are usually the most inexpensive choice, but they rest on the gums and accelerate the deterioration of the remaining jawbone. Dentures move within the mouth and make talking and eating difficult. They also require additional maintenance, such as adhesives and cleansing soaks.
Fixed bridges — replacement teeth attached to remaining natural teeth — are another option, but they requiring cutting the existing teeth into smaller peg shapes. This procedure compromises their strength and long-term health, and they also become more prone to plaque, decay and gum disease.
Dental implants are the option with the biggest upfront cost, but in the long run, they may be the most cost effective. For suitable candidates, implants act as substitutes for natural roots and continue to stimulate bone growth, which helps keep the other teeth strong as well. The titanium in the implants cleanly integrates with the bone and creates a bond as strong as the original tooth, if not stronger. Compared to dentures and bridges, which need to be replaced every 10-15 years, implants are a better investment, since they can last up to a lifetime with the same maintenance as normal teeth.
Are dental implants right for me?
The implant procedure may seem expensive initially, but it can be the ideal treatment option for the right candidates looking to restore their smiles for the rest of their lives. Under the right conditions, implants have a success rate of more than 98 percent. The Fitzgerald Dental Implant Center provides a location that has everything necessary for a successful implant surgery under one roof.
Whether you’ve lost a single tooth or need an entire arch replaced, make an appointment with Dr. Fitzgerald for a complimentary consultation to see how dental implants can be the most effective solution for you.