When The Tooth Fairy Stops Coming To Visit
Dental Implants – What To Do When You Lose A Tooth
Remember the carefree days of childhood when every time you lost a tooth you’d carefully place it under the pillow in anticipation of the Tooth Fairy’s visit? Not only did the toothless grin you were left with look cute, you even managed to get a few dollars in compensation. Not a bad deal. After all, if all my patients were paid every time they lost a tooth, I probably wouldn’t be in business.
Over the years in my job as a prosthodontist, I have replaced enough teeth to keep the Tooth Fairy busy for an eternity. At my clinic, Legato Dental Centre in Kelowna, BC, dental implants are typically our go-to method for these situations. Often times we’ll see people with a broken tooth and because the damage is so severe, we have no other option but to take the tooth out and place an implant. This could be due to an accident, or the result of biting into something that’s fractured the tooth. Either way, people in these circumstances are great candidates for dental implants. Beyond that of course, there are many others who have lost teeth due to decay or natural factors as well, and are also an excellent match for this type of replacement.
In my work I’ve realized that a lot of people hear the term “dental implant” used, but still are unclear about what exactly it is. Essentially a dental implant is an anchor or foundation for something that we’re going to build. Again this harkens back to my view of dentistry as architecture—planning, designing, and building a support. The dental implant comes in the form of a small titanium post that’s inserted into the jaw, and it can support one or many teeth, depending on the needs of the patient. It allows us great mobility in terms of designing (or, redesigning) the missing tooth or teeth, as we can replace however many are necessary.
Of all the questions I get from patients on dental implants, I would say the most common is, ‘Are they painful?’ It’s impossible for me to predict what any one patient will feel—every person is different and it depends on a number of factors, including pain tolerance and health history—but I will say that generally speaking, the extraction of a tooth usually causes more discomfort than the placement of the implant itself. There is ordinarily some discomfort experienced, but the recovery and healing process is typically easier and faster than with an extraction.
Recovery time for a dental implant is another element that depends both on the scenario and the person. As an example, let’s take a hypothetical patient (I’ll call her Judith) for whom we’re going to replace a single tooth. If it’s a predictable situation and there are no extenuating health concerns, Judith can go to work that same afternoon. She should have minimal discomfort that’s easily manageable and the expectation will be for a total recovery in a few days. However, if Judith has lost all her upper or lower teeth (or both) and we use All-On-4 as her replacement method, she’ll probably be able to return to work after 2 or 3 days, but we’ll advise her not to be very active for a couple of weeks. This is for two main reasons: the body needs time for the healing process, and we want to minimize any chance of physical trauma or injury that could prolong her recovery.
Using this same hypothetical scenario, we can explore how long dental implants typically last. With All-On-4 or individual implants, my expectation is that Judith will have them for a very long time. What does a very long time mean? I hesitate to say that anything manmade is permanent, but it’s certainly not uncommon for me to see patients who’ve had implants live with them for 30, 40 years or more. There’s always the slight possibility of complications, but I wouldn’t say that’s the norm.
So if you find yourself in need of a dental implant and all goes as planned, the tooth fairy shouldn’t be making any visits to see you anytime soon.