Missing teeth? Why dental implants may be right for you

This content is sponsored by MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

People who are missing teeth may feel self-conscious smiling or may have trouble eating. But dental implants can be a long-term solution to replace a missing tooth and help rebuild a patient’s confidence.

Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that are similar in shape to screws. The implants are surgically anchored to bone and once anchored, the body grows bone onto them and stabilizes them. That can be used as a base that supports artificial teeth, such as crowns, bridges, and dentures, said Dr. Ravi Agarwal, an oral and maxillofacial surgeon at MedStar Washington Hospital Center.

“This is currently the best long-term solution that we have today for tooth replacement. Overall our success rates are 95 percent, especially when a patient sees a surgical specialist for the replacement,” Dr. Agarwal said.

Any patient who wishes to replace a tooth can be a candidate for dental implants. Most common are those who are seeking a single tooth replacement — a front tooth that is impacting their smile or a back tooth affecting the way they eat. However, as the baby boomer generation continues to grow, Dr. Agarwal said he is seeing a larger population of people who need to replace all of their teeth.

Patients of varying ages come to see Dr. Agarwal for dental implants, from teens who are naturally missing some teeth to 75-year-olds who have had dentures and would like to better taste food, smile and chew.

Dr. Agarwal said most of his patients come to see him, a surgeon, after consulting a dentist. He said he considers the relationship with the patient’s dentist to be a team effort and a necessary one to understand the patient’s needs. In fact, once the surgery is done and healed, the patient would return to their dentist to have the prosthetic made.

“You can consider a dental implant like a foundation, I need an architect to tell me how they want the tooth designed so I can lay the foundation in the correct place. So we require that most of our patients work with a dental provider,” he said.

Ahead of a dental implant surgery, Dr. Agarwal meets with patients for a consultation. That allows him to establish a relationship, review medications the patient may be on and discuss the procedure with them.

Placing a dental implant is a short office procedure, Dr. Agarwal said. During the surgery, an incision is made in the gums to access the bone and specialized equipment is used to make space in the bone to anchor the screws. Then the gums are closed back up with dissolvable stitches. After the implant heals, the dentist creates the replacement teeth.

“A single tooth implant can be as short as 30 minutes in the office,” he added.

And if the thought of dental surgery has you nervous, Dr. Agarwal ensures his patients that they will be comfortable during the procedure.

“Anxiety is a concern and since we are oral and maxillofacial specialists, we have the ability to offer pain and anxiety reducing techniques such as office anesthesia,” he said.

Similar to having a tooth removed, patients will be uncomfortable for a few days after the procedure. Over the counter pain medications can help alleviate some of the pain, Dr. Agarwal said.

MedStar Washington Hospital Center works to provide the best care to patients and is on the cutting edge of technology, Dr. Agarwal said.

“All of these technologies have allowed us to reduce treatment time, minimize errors and provide temporary teeth on the same day as the dental implant surgery,” Dr. Agarwal said. “Even with all of this technology, I think the biggest reason to choose our team is the ability to provide all of this advanced care at a reduced cost.”

Read more and listen to a podcast with Dr. Agarwal here.

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