Why All-on-4® Treatment Concept?
When you lose your teeth, your entire life is affected. For many decades, dentures have been the go-to treatment for dealing with an entire arch (or both) of missing teeth. Today, however, you have more options. Along with dentures, there are dental implants. Implants are an innovative addition to your options for replacing missing teeth and come with numerous advantages. However, when it comes to replacing an entire arch of missing teeth, you may be faced with unique challenges, in particular, bone loss. Rather than be relegated to dentures, the Tuttle Crossing Dental Group offers a special implant treatment concept that allows you to enjoy the benefits of dental implants despite bone loss—the All-on-4® treatment concept.
What happens when you lose your teeth?
There are several things that happen when you lose your teeth, whether by periodontal disease, facial trauma, tooth decay, bruxism, or otherwise. One of the most obvious effects of tooth loss is the deterioration of your smile. Not only that, but your lips and cheeks no longer have the support that your teeth once provided, so they sink in, causing you to appear years older.
Tooth loss impairs your ability to eat properly. Your teeth are necessary for the first stage of digestion, working to thoroughly break down what you eat so that your body can absorb essential nutrients. Without your teeth, this crucial stage of digestion is missed, and can ultimately lead to malnutrition.
Tooth loss also affects your speech. Your teeth are important for controlling airflow, allowing you to form specific words and sounds. When you have lost your teeth, it becomes more difficult for you to speak properly, and for others to understand you.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are the most recent addition to your available options for replacing missing teeth. They are small titanium rods that are surgically inserted into your jawbone, in a treatment unlike any other replacement option. As you heal from your procedure, your jawbone fuses with the titanium rods (known as osseointegration), essentially turning them into “roots.” These roots are then used to support ceramic crowns. Implants can be used to replace any number of missing teeth, from a single tooth to an entire arch; even both arches can be replaced with implants. Typically, when replacing an entire arch of missing teeth, your replacement teeth (an implant supported denture), are supported by 6 to 8 dental implants. After your bone has fully fused to the implants, the implants provide your new teeth with a strong, stable, permanent support system.
How Bone Loss Affects Dental Implants
Along with obvious effects of tooth loss, something else happens below the gum line. Your teeth are essential for stimulating your jawbone. By stimulating the bone, your body receives a message that the jaw requires nutrients. These nutrients are sent, and your jaw remains strong. When you lose your teeth, this stimulation is lost. As a result, your body stops sending nutrients. Your jaw begins to resorb and grow weak.
Dental implants help to stop the bone loss that occurs as a result of tooth loss. They do so by imitating the functions of your natural tooth roots and stimulating your jawbone. However, if you lack sufficient bone mass to begin with, there is a greater risk of implant failure. Even if only one implant from the 6 to 8 placed on your implant supported denture fails, your entire restoration is compromised.
The Downside of Dentures
Today’s dentures are nothing like their predecessors. They have been designed to appear more natural and feel more comfortable. However, even with all of the developments made on dentures, they still have a few disadvantages. One of these disadvantages is that they require a significant amount of extra work every day. Each night, they need to be removed and cleaned. Dentures still rely on your gums for support, and they can slip out of place (this is a common issue for dentures placed in the bottom jaw). Not only is this irritating, but it can also be embarrassing, and lead to painful sores. One of the biggest disadvantages of dentures, however, is that even though dentures replace your missing teeth, they do not stimulate the jawbone. This means that they cannot stop the bone loss that accompanies tooth loss. As your jawbone changes shapes, your dentures will no longer fit properly, and you will need to have them replaced approximately every seven years.
The All-on-4® Treatment Concept
The All-on-4® treatment concept was designed to offer dental implants to those who have already experienced bone loss and do not have sufficient bone mass to support a typical implant supported a denture. With this treatment concept, your restoration relies less on the number dental implants placed and more on the strategic placement of the ones that are used. Rather than supporting your replacement teeth on 6 to 8 implants, the teeth are supported by only 4. Two of the implants are inserted vertically at the front of the jaw, where there is naturally more bone mass available. The other two implants are placed at the back of the jaw, one on each side. These implants are inserted at a 45-degree angle, which helps to maximize contact between the existing jawbone and the implants. In the upper jaw, this angle helps to avoid puncturing the maxillary sinus cavities.
Avoid the Need for a Bone Graft
Before the introduction of the All-on-4® treatment concept, you had two options if you lacked the bone mass required for an implant supported a denture. You could either resign yourself to dentures, or you could undergo a bone graft procedure. A bone graft is a surgical procedure that takes bone mass from elsewhere in your body (usually your hip, tibia, or from your chin), bone mass from a donor, or uses a bone graft substitute, and places the mass in the weakened areas of your jaw. As you heal, your existing jawbone fuses to the new mass, restoring the strength and shape to the jaw. Bone grafts are also used to perform sinus lift procedures. With this particular procedure, bone mass, or bone mass substitute, is placed in the space between the jawbone and the floor of the maxillary sinus cavity. This helps to prevent the risk of puncturing the sinus cavity with a dental implant. Once you have healed from bone graft surgery, you can then undergo surgery for dental implant placement. While a bone graft is an effective treatment for giving you back the strength in your jawbone, healing from this procedure takes several months (sometimes as long as a year). Then you must wait until you have healed from dental implant surgery before you can receive your permanent replacement teeth, which means you can be without them for quite some time.
Thanks to the introduction of the All-on-4® treatment concept, the need for a bone graft is eliminated. This is because your implants are placed at strategic locations, and at specific angles, taking advantage of the bone mass that you do have remaining in your jaw. By avoiding a bone graft surgery, you will only require the downtime from the implant surgery (rather than requiring downtime for both), which helps you to get your replacement teeth that much faster.
Enjoy the Many Benefits of Dental Implants
With successful treatment using the All-on-4® treatment concept, you can enjoy the many benefits that come with dental implants. First, your ability to eat is improved. Proper chewing, the first stage in digestion, means that you can completely break down your foods, making the nutrients more easily accessible. This allows your body to absorb a greater amount of nutrients. Not only does proper chewing improve your digestion, it greatly aids in improving your overall nutrition as well.
The All-on-4® treatment concept helps to improve your speech. Your teeth are essential for proper speech. They control the airflow and provide a surface for your tongue to hit to form specific words and sounds. When you lose your teeth, there is nothing available to control the flow of air. Speaking becomes a major challenge, and others have a harder time understanding you. With the All-on-4® treatment concept, your replacement teeth restore the speaking functions of your teeth. Additionally, unlike dentures, you don’t have to worry about your replacement teeth slipping and falling out of place, causing a lisp or other embarrassing situation. Instead, your replacement teeth stay secure.
Treatment with All-on-4® dental implants provides you with significantly more comfort. Traditional dentures rest directly on your gums, which provide your restorations with their support. This can place much extra stress on your gums, as this delicate tissue is not designed to support such a structure. While leaving your dentures out at night gives your gums the chance to rest and heal, it sometimes may not be enough. What’s more is that dentures, even properly fitting ones, can slip out of place and rub on your gums. This can lead to painful sores that make wearing your dentures and performing normal tasks such as eating and speaking unbearable. With All-on-4®, your replacement teeth don’t rely on your gums for support. Instead, this support is supplied by the titanium implants. When you have completely healed from surgery, your teeth are held securely in place. There is no worry that they will slip out of place, and you don’t have to worry about, or deal with, sores on your gums.
With the All-on-4® treatment concept, your replacement teeth are non-removable, and much easier to take care of. Dentures notoriously require a bit of extra care than what you have been used to with your natural teeth. Dentures need to be removed nightly for cleaning. A denture cleaner needs to be used because toothpaste can cause microscopic fractures in the acrylic resin restoration that can then harbor harmful oral bacteria. The dentures must then be left to soak overnight while you sleep. Your replacement teeth with the All-on-4 treatment concept are secured on your dental implants with screws. They are designed to stay there permanently (only to be removed if maintenance is required). Moreover, because the crowns are made from ceramic, they can be cared for just like your natural teeth. In fact, it is highly recommended that you continue with a regular oral hygiene routine consisting of twice-daily brushing, once daily flossing, and dental visits every six months.
Finally, like regular dental implants, the All-on-4® treatment concept helps to protect the health and strength of your jawbone. While dentures restore most of the essential functions of your teeth, they cannot stimulate your jawbone. This means that, even though your teeth have been replaced, the bone mass in your jaw continues to resorb. As a result, your jawbone gradually changes shape. Since your dentures are made from an acrylic material that has been designed to fit a specific mold of your mouth, these changes mean that, eventually, your dentures will no longer fit properly. This can lead to an increase in the likelihood of your dentures feeling uncomfortable, slipping out of place, and causing denture sores. To avoid this, denture wearers need to replace their dentures periodically (approximately every seven years). With the help of the implants used in the All-on-4® treatment concept, the jawbone is stimulated once again. Your body receives the vital message that nutrients are required, and begins to send them where needed. As a result, the bone loss you were once experiencing in your jaw when you were wearing dentures (or going without replacement teeth altogether) is stopped. The implants help to retain the strength of your jawbone, preventing further changes in your jaw and facial shape. What’s more is that your replacement teeth help to fill out your cheeks and lips, restoring the shape of your face, as well as a more youthful appearance.
If you are currently wearing dentures, or you are just now seeking treatment for tooth loss, dental implants can help to significantly improve the quality of your life. If you are missing too much bone mass to support the necessary 6 to 8 dental implants of a typical implant supported denture, you may be a candidate for the All-on-4® Treatment Concept. For more information, or to schedule your consultation, call Tuttle Crossing Dental Group today at (614) 973-6585.