Dental implants are the tooth replacement that is most like natural teeth. But if you get beyond the basics, implants aren’t exactly like natural teeth. Sure, they look like natural teeth and let you chew just like natural teeth. You even care for them like natural teeth, with brushing, flossing, and regular dental visits, and they can last a lifetime like natural teeth can.
But there are some differences which are important to keep in mind.
No Space around Implant
There is a natural space around teeth, separating them from your gums. This is called the periodontal space, but there shouldn’t be any such space between your dental implant and your gums. Your gums should grow right up to your implants.
The implants should still look natural. The space between healthy teeth and gums is very slight, and the dental implant should mimic it when your gums heal properly after implant placement.
2. You Don’t Like the Appearance of Traditional Braces
The space between the teeth and gums continues down into the bone. Your natural tooth roots aren’t connected directly to your bones. Instead, they’re connected by a short, tough, and flexible membrane called the periodontal ligament. The periodontal ligament gives your natural teeth some flexibility and it stimulates your body to produce or remove bone according to the pressures put on the tooth.
No Periodontal Ligament
Whether you’re a teenager or an adult, it’s completely understandable to not want to show off a mouth full of metal. Not only can metal braces look embarrassing, but they might also make you feel even more self-conscious than your natural teeth. The last thing you want to do is draw more attention to your smile. If you feel this way, you should consider Invisalign because the treatment is nearly invisible. The clear aligners are hardly noticeable unless you’re an inch away from someone’s teeth. Feel free to keep your Invisalign treatment a secret between you and Dr. Appolon.
Practically, this means that your implant is vulnerable to pressures that would actually stimulate the production of jawbone around natural teeth. It also means that dental implants can’t move via orthodontic treatment the way your natural teeth can--that’s why we need to make sure the spacing in your mouth is right before we place your implants.
Not as Sensitive or Flexible
Your natural teeth have several degrees of sensitivity and flexibility. The tooth itself is flexible. Though it may not seem like it, your teeth are somewhat squishy, and when you bite and chew, they compress. There’s also a nerve inside the tooth that senses how hard you’re biting down.
Add this to the periodontal ligament and you’ve got a good idea if you’re biting down too hard with natural teeth.
With dental implants, though, there isn’t much sensation. Only the bones have some sense of how hard you’re biting down, and the bones aren’t really designed to give that information, so it can take a little bit of time to learn to not bite down too hard.
Not as Sensitive or Flexible
It can be hard to learn how to properly floss around your natural teeth. Especially if your teeth are crooked, there are many nooks and crannies that can be hard to clean out. This is probably the reason why studies of flossing don’t show as much benefit as we think they should--people are bad at flossing (not to mention they lie about it!)
Dental implants can also take a while to learn to clean. They can have a number of different kinds of spaces, so it’s important to put the time in early on to learn the right way to properly clean around your implant, including which tools are best for your implant configuration. This can be a bit more of a challenge with systems like All-on-4 implant dentures.
Still the Most Tooth-Like Replacement
And that’s about all the differences. Besides that, dental implants look and function like natural teeth, including their ability to last a lifetime with proper care.