If you’re missing one or more teeth, you aren’t alone: According to the National Dental Telephone Interview Survey, the average Australian adult is missing five teeth, and one in 25 Australians is missing all their natural teeth. But solidarity doesn’t make a smile with gaps any prettier, more functional, or easier to clean.
By far the most permanent, durable solution to a missing tooth is the dental implant. Implants are perfect replacements for your natural teeth, both in appearance and in functionality. If cared for well, dental implants can last decades–even a lifetime–without needing to be replaced. But are you a good candidate for this procedure?
The Absolute Requirements
There are a few attributes you absolutely must have for any dentist to consider giving you dental implants. First, of course, you must have at least one missing or failing tooth. (That’s a pretty easy to bar to meet for most people seeking dental implants!) Second, you must be an adult. This is because children and teenagers’ mouths are still developing, which could result in dental implants ending up in the wrong position over time.
Finally, you need to be in good enough health to undergo surgery. While dental implant surgery is localized to a small area, it’s still a surgery, and carries with it certain risks. Your doctor will need to sign off on any dental implant procedure before your dentist will perform it.
The Potential Problems
Of course, there are also issues that could present obstacles to dental implants, depending on the severity and what your dentist thinks after an exam. For example:
- You have gum disease. Gum disease is an infection, and infection is the biggest threat to dental implants. Your dentist will want to make sure that any infection in your mouth is fully cleared up before seriously considering dental implants.
- You’re a smoker. Smoking prevents your mouth from healing — in fact, smokers are two to three times more likely to experience dental implant failure. Your dentist will recommend that you quit smoking during the procedure and the healing period at the very least (although it’s best for your oral health if you quit smoking altogether!)
- You don’t have enough jaw bone. Dental implants are implanted directly into the jaw bone, so if you don’t have enough bone to support one, the procedure is a no-go. You can get a bone graft procedure to make implants possible, but that could add up to six months to your treatment time.
- You’re taking certain medications. Some medications can interfere with the healing process and make your dental implants more likely to fail. It’s important that you discuss any and all medications (including over-the-counter medications and herbal supplements) with your dentist before the procedure.