In general, dental implants are the best tooth-replacement option available. But they’re not always the best in every situation. If you have lost a tooth to gum disease, for example, we have to think long and hard before deciding to replace it with a dental implant.
Dental implants can be susceptible to gum disease, just like your natural teeth. In order to ensure the success of your dental implant, we have to be sure that we can control your gum disease in the future, which means a significant commitment from you in terms of oral hygiene and potential in increased visits to our office. You may have to change your diet and other lifestyle factors, such as quitting smoking. There may be additional medications and procedures recommended. And because gum disease has a significant genetic component, it might still not be enough.
Fortunately, dental bridges make a good alternative in these cases. They look and function almost as good as dental implants–you and people looking at your smile probably can’t tell the difference. And they are very successful in people with gum disease.
A recent study looked at the success rate of dental bridges in 100 people who had lost teeth due to gum disease. These hundred patients had 948 abutment teeth–teeth used to support dental bridges–among them, and all were undergoing maintenance care for their gum disease. At follow-up, 90% of abutment teeth were still in place, but 41 patients had lost teeth. A total of 94 teeth were lost.
The most common risk factor for a lost abutment tooth was root canal treatment of that tooth. The process of a root canal protects that tooth and others from infection, but it can weaken it. Although the tooth may be adequate for normal function, but may not be strong enough to support a dental bridge.
If you are facing the loss of one or more teeth due to gum disease, we can discuss what is the best approach to preserving or replacing your teeth. If you haven’t consulted with a periodontist about preserving your teeth, it’s important to do so–a general dentist doesn’t have the same level of expertise in this area.
And if the tooth can’t be preserved, we will examine your teeth to determine if a dental implant, dental bridge, or other option is best for replacing your teeth.