Most folks see a strong jaw as an attractive facial feature. It’s also important for dental procedures, notably for dental implants. But what if you do not have a strong jaw? Does that mean you can’t get a dental implant to replace your lost tooth or teeth?
Some people do not have enough bone density in their jaw to support a dental implant. Your bone weakens if you lose a tooth. Teeth stimulate your jaw through activities like chewing and biting. So with no tooth, you get no stimulation and your jaw weakens over time. That is why it’s so important to replace missing teeth.
Weak Jaw: What Are Your Options?
You do have options if you lack enough bone density in your jaw to support a dental implant. The two primary options are:
- Bone graft. Our Spokane Valley, WA dentist Dr. Craig Ellsworth can place bone material in your mouth where you need to beef up your bone density. It encourages new bone growth. After healing, the area generally becomes strong enough to support a dental implant.
- Mini dental implant. A less complicated alternative is using a mini dental implant, which is a smaller version of the traditional dental implant. The diameter of a mini dental implant is usually about half the size of a full-size implant.
In this post, we’ll focus on the mini dental implant option. But first, let’s step back and look at dental implants and how they work.
Lowdown on Dental Implants
Here are two things you should know about how dental implants work:
- A dental implant functions like the root of a tooth.
- Dental implants involve three parts: a strong titanium rod placed in your jawbone, a piece called an abutment that sits on top of the implant, and a dental crown on top of the abutment.
For most folks, the dental implant process goes like this:
- Our Dr. Ellsworth places the dental implant in your jawbone. It usually goes into the socket of the missing tooth you want to replace.
- As your jawbone heals, the bone grows around the implant.
- After it is fully healed, he puts the abutment atop the implant. Healing usually takes several weeks.
- Finally, you receive your replacement tooth, a dental crown. Dr. Ellsworth attaches it to the abutment. With the implant as a sturdy foundation, the replacement tooth won’t go anywhere!
When Are Mini Dental Implants an Option?
Mini dental implants work well in some, though not all, situations. Here are some instances in which we like to use mini dental implants:
- A mini dental implant may be preferable for an older person or a person who has a medical condition that slows their healing time. The procedure to place the mini dental implant is typically less invasive.
- In areas that are a tight squeeze, the smaller dental implant may simply fit the space better.
- Mini dental implants were originally approved by the FDA to stabilize dentures. They still work well for that purpose.
- Mini dental implants work well in areas like the front of your mouth, where you typically won’t put a lot of chewing pressure on your replacement tooth.
Deciding If Mini Dental Implants Are Right for You
A drawback of mini dental implants is that we don’t know as much about their long-term success rate. They have not been used as widely in dental procedures as full-size dental implants. It has only been about 15 years since they were approved for uses other than temporarily retaining dentures.
Mini dental implants may not function as well in areas of your mouth where you put a lot of pressure on your teeth when chewing. Because the implant is smaller, they must be placed carefully to stay put – especially if they will support a fixed bridge or similar restoration.
Because mini dental implants are relatively new and can be tricky to place in your jaw, it is important to find a dentist like Dr. Ellsworth who has extensive experience working with them. Because he works with both full-size and mini dental implants, he can explain the pros and cons of each. Together, you can determine which is the best dental solution for you.
Call Family Dental of Spokane Valley at 509-850-3217 to find out more about mini dental implants and to schedule a consultation with Dr. Ellsworth. You can also use the online form to make an appointment at our Spokane Valley, WA office.