The Real Truth: Can Dental Implants Make You Look Younger?
According to the American College of Prosthodontists, more than 35 million people are edentulous, which means they don’t have any teeth at all. Another 178 million Americans are missing at least one tooth. Although it’s a very common problem, many people only focus on the general aesthetics of the missing tooth itself. A tooth is easy enough to replace, whether with dental implants, dentures, partials, or bridges, and so people often focus on choosing a replacement just to have something there. Others simply opt not to replace the tooth, thinking it’s sufficiently far back that it can’t be seen in a smile. Unfortunately, this logic leads to the appearance of premature aging.
More than Just a Tooth Disappears When an Extraction is Performed
Without a doubt, gaps in a smile can make a person look much older than he or she is. However, the replacement choice can make a huge difference in overall appearance as well. The jawbone relies on the friction and pressure caused by natural teeth to retain its shape. As teeth are lost or extracted, that portion of the jaw essentially loses its purpose. The body then responds by absorbing those tissues back into its system. This process is called resorption, and it actually dissolves away the jawbone where the tooth was. Within a year of the loss of the tooth, 25% of the surrounding bone is lost. Research indicates that as much as 40% can be lost over the course of three years.
Puckered Mouths Aren’t a Natural Side-Effect of Aging
Dental care has come a long way in recent years. Prior generations expected to lose all their teeth, and most of them did. As people watched their parents and grandparents grow older, they’d note the sunken-in look of the mouth and associate it with the aging process. The catch is, it’s not part of the aging process at all! It’s actually caused by the bone-loss which results from losing teeth.
Youthful Appearance Can Be Maintained with Dental Implants
Unfortunately, bone resorbed by the body can’t be regrown yet, although scientists are working on it. There are a number of procedures that can restore the area and do a fairly good job of it, but they’re all surgical in nature. The best thing a person can do nowadays is to stop bone loss altogether (or at least dramatically slow it), by choosing a restoration that closely mimics a natural tooth. Bridges, dentures, and partials can all be made to mimic the look of a real tooth, but they don’t mirror it in function. In order for the jawbone to receive the stimulation it needs, a “root” must be in place. The only restoration that can provide this is a dental implant.
How Dental Implants Work
Dental implants are made up of several parts. As noted earlier, there’s a “root” or a metal screw which embeds directly into the bone. Over a period of several months, the bone naturally accepts the screw and bonds to it, in a process called osseointegration. While the bonding occurs, a healing cap is placed on top, so the area can remain undisturbed. The dentist will check on progress and once it’s solid, he will make a false tooth, or crown, to replace the natural tooth. Each crown is uniquely designed to match the size, shape, and color of the teeth around it, so it’s a perfect likeness. This way, the replacement is almost identical to the look and function of tooth it’s replacing- all the way from the tip of the root to the top of the biting surface.