Dental Implants for Los Gatos
Losing your teeth is a serious problem that damages oral health, quality of life, and the beauty of your smile. If you’re looking for a solution that looks and feels natural, talk to our team at Los Gatos Dental Group about dental implants. Implants go a step beyond traditional bridges and dentures replicating the entire structure of your tooth seamlessly, so you enjoy the rejuvenation you need and the aesthetic value you deserve. In fact, you may forget they’re not your natural teeth after some time has passed!
Dr. Sawyer, Dr. Diercks, and Dr. Karamardian all believe in the transformative power of dental implants, and we’d love to share them with you. Contact us today to schedule an implant consultation, or if you have questions about our reconstructive services. We’re located here in Los Gatos, CA, and new people from Campbell, Saratoga, Cupertino, San Jose, and beyond are also welcome.
The Implant Process
Our first step towards improving oral health and happiness will be to determine whether or not you’re the right candidate for dental implants. Is your oral health generally good? Is your jawbone dense enough to support the placement of one or more implants? If the answer to either of these questions is “no,” we may ask that you to undergo additional procedures before implant treatment begins to increase your chances of success.
In the past, people with missing teeth had two choices to replace them, fixed bridges or removable teeth. Having a fixed bridge placed requires grinding down the teeth on both sides of the missing ones and cementing a metal and porcelain bridge spanning the gap of the missing teeth. The main problem with this method is the grinding which is done on the healthy teeth. Teeth which have been ground down in order to support a bridge have a 1 in 7 probability of needing a root canal in the next 5 years, and teeth with root canals have a higher incidence of breaking (especially when supporting a bridge). Your teeth are really not designed to support bridges, but it is something that we as dentists have managed to work with for many years. A bridge is like any other dental work in your mouth; it will not last forever and it is susceptible to cavities and decay. If you have a bridge in your mouth and something should go wrong with just one of the teeth supporting it, the entire bridge is compromised and has to be replaced. Bridgework is also more difficult to clean and maintain than natural teeth or implants, since you need to thread floss underneath to clean them. Bridges have been used for many decades and have served millions of people well, but with the availability of dental implants and the superior service they provide, we have seen the need for bridges almost eliminated. Before implants became a part of dentistry, bridges were considered to be the finest treatment available for missing teeth, but they are now becoming a thing of the past for several reasons that we will go into.
Removable teeth (partials and dentures) are another option when replacing missing teeth. Dentures are used when a person has no teeth left in either the upper or lower jaw. Partials are used when only some teeth are missing. The main disadvantage to these appliances is practicality. They have to be taken out a night, make chewing food difficult, have to be removed and cleaned after eating, and can interfere with speech and sense of taste in some cases. Ask anyone who wears dentures or partials if they like them and see what they say. Many people can never adjust to how a denture or partial feels in their mouth and are unable to wear them for that reason. Dentures and partials need to be replaced every 4 to 10 years because of changes in your mouth which cause them to stop fitting snugly.
There is another option, to do nothing and live with missing teeth. Missing teeth can be unattractive if in the front of the mouth, and the surrounding teeth will begin to shift and move around, changing the bite and possibly creating jaw problems. As teeth move around, they become difficult to clean and maintain, leading to tooth decay and gum disease. Another problem is that when people lose too many back teeth, their ability to chew food becomes compromised which can lead to digestive problems. People who are missing their back teeth compensate by chewing their food with their front teeth that start to break down even faster because they were not designed for heavy chewing. Losing a tooth is like knocking over the first domino, starting a chain of events which can lead to more missing teeth.
Today, we can replace single or multiple teeth with dental implants, which are revolutionizing the way many dentists practice. A dental implant is basically a replacement tooth. It is a titanium post that is implanted into the jawbone where the root of the missing tooth used to be. It is the same type of medical grade titanium used for knee and hip replacements. We can use implants to replace a single missing tooth or multiple teeth by utilizing two or more implants and placing a bridge on the implants. Another use for implants is to stabilize dentures and partials.
An implant can be placed practically anywhere a tooth used to be, providing there is still enough bone to support it. When teeth are lost, the bone which used to support it gradually melts away, a process called resorption. This is why people who have no teeth and wear dentures have to have their dentures refitted (or relined) every few years. Eventually, the bone resorbs so much that there is nothing left to support the denture which becomes extremely loose and difficult to eat with. An interesting fact is that when implants are placed, the bone resorption stops. The upper and lower jawbone treat the implants as if they were natural teeth and the bone stays where it should. Another interesting fact is that dentures and partials actually accelerate the loss of bone underneath them because of the pressure they exert on the gum tissue. Implants stop this by transferring the pressure of chewing from the surface of the gums to the inside of the bone, exactly as your teeth do. This is the main reason why implants are a better choice than dentures and partials, and also why it is important to have implants placed in a timely manner before too much bone resorption has occurred.
If a person is just missing one tooth, all the concepts we just discussed still apply. The bone resorption will occur in the area of the missing tooth, eventually to the point that not enough bone is left to place an implant and you are stuck with having to place a bridge or undergo bone graft surgery to build up bone density to support the implant. Ideally, we like to place an implant the same day a tooth is removed to minimize any bone resorption.
As we discussed, the implant is a titanium post placed in the bone. Since it is buried deep below the gums, the only way to see it is with an x-ray. The implant surface is specially prepared, so the bone cells of your body grow towards and attach to it. The implant has a screw hole inside for attaching other parts. The day we place an implant, we put a healing screw in the screw hole. This keeps material from getting inside the implant screw hole and allows the gums to heal nicely. After healing has occurred, the healing screw is removed and a piece called an abutment is screwed into the implant. We use different types of abutments depending on what the implant is supporting. If the implant is for a single tooth, the abutment is a small post onto which a crown will be placed. If the implant is to be used under a denture or partial, the abutment is some sort of attachment that the denture or partial locks onto. There are too many parts and pieces to go into detail, but Dr. Sawyer or Dr. Diercks can answer detailed questions about the implant parts specific to your case. There are many implant companies out there, with practically none of their pieces being interchangeable, which makes it important for us to know what type of implant you have, especially for those coming from other offices with implants already in place. For this reason, we keep detailed records.
How long do implants last?
Unlike other tooth replacement solutions and materials, high-quality titanium dental implants are not prone to decay. However, gum disease may still occur if implant supported replacement teeth are not properly cared for. Daily brushing and flossing and six month checkups make it possible for most people to keep their implant-retained tooth replacement prosthetics for decades or even the remainder of their lifetime in many cases. We may need to replace or refit your prosthetic after years of damage or wear to ensure your smile continues to look and feel beautiful and natural.
By comparison, dental bridges need to be replaced at least every 15 years, if not sooner, and these bridges must be completely replaced. They cannot be repaired. The multiple replacements over the course of a lifetime may end up costing more than five times the cost of an implant supported bridge and its lifetime care, maintenance, and repair. Additionally, dental implant supported bridges do not have negative impact on surrounding healthy teeth the way traditional dental implants do. When considered as a whole, dental implant supported tooth replacement offers the most effective, longest lasting, and cost effective long term solution.
Doesn’t it hurt?
It’s not that bad at all. Research has shown that placing an implant is much less painful or traumatic to oral health than having a tooth extracted. Depending on the number and position of dental implants, the procedure typically takes between 45 minutes and an hour, and our team of experts is able to complete the entire process in our comfortable dental practice. Most people need only local anesthesia, but we also offer nitrous oxide and oral conscious sedation for those who struggle with dental anxiety or who struggle to numb with local anesthesia alone. The vast majority of people are quite surprised how little discomfort they experience after having the implant placed, and all of them agree that having a tooth removed caused more discomfort than having the implant placed. Most of us have not had a dental implant placed in our jawbone before, so some of the fear and apprehension people have is because it is a procedure unknown to them. People who have had their second or third or fourth implant placed have no worries because the first one was so easy. Following treatment, you'll experience very little discomfort because the bone tissue we implant the post into does not have sensitive nerve endings that send pain signals. People have different pain thresholds and emotional concerns that can cause pain, so we never claim that any procedure we do is “painless,” but the overwhelming consensus from people is that this is a fairly easy and tolerable procedure. Dr. Sawyer and Dr. Diercks have placed implants in friends and family members over the years and they still get invited to dinners and parties. Infection is an oral and overall health risk we try to prevent by placing you on antibiotics leading up to and following treatment. These antibiotic pills prevent possible infection in the healing tissue around the implant site. How long we wait before removing the healing screw and proceeding depends on a few things. Bone density, implant location, smoking habits, presence of infection, and health issues all factor into how long the bone needs to attach to the implant. In many cases, we can put a temporary tooth on the implant the same day it is placed. In other cases, we may have to wait up to three months. Every case is different, and sometimes we really cannot say for sure until the day of surgery. Whether the bone is soft and spongy or hard and thick is not always easy to determine by x-ray alone, and softer bone requires a longer healing time. We offer a free digital panoramic film and a free implant consult for anyone interested in dental implants.
Once you’re ready for your new implants, it’ll be time for their placement into the jawbone. While many dental practices must refer people to outside specialists for this service, our doctors have the expertise to handle it right here in our Los Gatos office for a more familiar and comfortable experience overall. Following the placement, you typically need to undergo a period of healing, which allows the implants to form a sturdy bond with your natural tissue. Finally, you'll return to Los Gatos Dental Group, so we can design and place beautifully lifelike restorations on top of your implants completing your new and improved smile.
When dealing with individual implants, our team can restore them with dental crowns for a beautiful and conservative effect that preserves the health of surrounding teeth. However, this option can become cost-prohibitive if people need to restore a larger area of their smile. Thankfully, implant-retained prosthetics are an effective alternative. These custom restorations closely resemble dentures and bridges, but they’re designed to actually attach to your new implants creating a more confident fit overall.
- While traditional tooth replacement options only bother with the crown (the white part) of the tooth, dental implants recreate the root as well, which has the important job of stimulating the jawbone. This allows you to avoid the threat of jawbone deterioration and eventual facial collapse.
- Dental implants can be treated just like your regular teeth, and no changes to your diet are required. Just brush and floss daily like always!
- The placement of dental implants eliminates the shifting of other teeth, allowing you to maintain the straight, beautiful smile they worked so hard for.
- As long as they’re cared for properly, dental implants last 30 years, 40 years, or even for the rest of your life.