If you're missing a tooth, or even a few teeth, you might be a candidate for dental implants. These implants are permanent screws that are installed directly into the jawbone, with a cap or crown placed over that screw. This type of implant is often more convenient than dentures or a bridge, as you don't need to remove an implant every day to clean it, and an implant may be stronger than dentures, with less risk of cracking or breaking when eating. If you're thinking of getting an implant or implants, obviously your dentist can tell you what you need to know about this procedure, but note a few basic questions many patients have about this particular option for replacing missing teeth.

Is bone grafting needed?

A bone graft might be needed if you've suffered bone loss for any reason, such as from smoking, cancer treatment, facial surgery and the like. This, however, is typically very rare, and a healthy patient with a healthy jaw will typically have enough of a strong jawbone to support this implant, without grafting needed.

Can an implant still be installed if the tooth has been missing for some time?

When a tooth is missing, other teeth may tend to drift to that empty space in the mouth, and the bone itself may begin to shrink, as the roots of a tooth help to stimulate the jawbone and keep it healthy. This doesn't mean that the gap in your mouth will necessarily be too small for an implant, or that you won't have enough bone to support an implant. A dentist may be able to drill down the teeth around that gap so that an implant can fit, and a bone graft might be necessary, but the implant procedure may still be an option. Don't assume that you're not a candidate for an implant if you've been missing teeth for any amount of time, but discuss the option with your dentist as needed.

Can implants replace all of a person's teeth?

While implants are often used to replace one tooth or just a few teeth, they can be installed in your entire mouth. This might depend on the health of your mouth and jawbone, and of course this will mean more surgery in order to actually install the implant. Your dentist will need to ensure that you are able to heal from this surgery properly, and that your mouth can support those implants. If so, this can be a good alternative to dentures and other such dental appliances.