Oral health professionals and patients agree that dental implants are the gold standard in tooth replacement, and many people who lose their teeth due to decay or periodontal problems will opt for that — and they usually want to act quickly.
The same will apply to patients whose trauma occurs as part of casual athletic activity — ordinary sports injuries that might occur during a game of softball, flag football, or tennis or while participating in activities like bicycling, jogging, or hiking.
The question of when and how to replace lost teeth gets more complicated, however, when players are involved in more serious sporting competitions either on an amateur or professional basis.
The Hockey Conundrum
The hockey goalie with a tooth knocked out is not just a stereotype, it’s a reality; some players may even consider a lost tooth a badge of honor.
Hockey pros often choose to live without one or more teeth for years, putting off implants until after retirement. The logic is clear. Why replace a tooth if it’s very possible it could get knocked out again? Many may choose bridgework that they can remove before playing and get implants later. Others live with problems associated with lost teeth, including difficulties eating and talking.
The problem is that, even when we’re young, lost teeth can start to have impacts that go beyond the cosmetic and practical problems most people associate with missing teeth. Lost teeth spur bone loss because losing the support of the root of a tooth deprives the jawbone of stimulation, leading to atrophy. While bridgework and dentures are better than nothing, they do not slow down bone loss and many experts fear they may accelerate it.
Dental implants, on the other hand, act like real teeth. Replacing the lost root and contacting the jawbone helps the body to continue maintaining bone. So, while hockey players typically retire at roughly 28 to 30 years of age, waiting for too much longer may put them at greater risk for jawbone atrophy.
Professional hockey players may have reason to delay getting implants for a few years but most other athletes will benefit from getting them sooner and not later. This is particularly true for committed amateurs who continue to play into their middle years and beyond with sports like soccer, softball, basketball, and bicycling. A modicum of caution should limit the chances of repeated dental trauma and, as we’ve said, there are significant risks attached to waiting too long.
The Price of Delaying Dental Implants
The most important reason to get oral implants is to stop bone loss. The long-term impacts of losing bone can be devastating as the jawbone deteriorates further. Just as bad or worse, patients can suffer facial collapse, which is the medical term for the sunken look you may be familiar with in older people with severe drug and alcohol problems.
Even so, we want you to think about the shorter-term impact; the potential price of delay in terms of time, money, and heartache is significant. That’s because patients with insufficient bone structure are not candidates for implants until they have first had oral surgery to provide supporting structure for the implant. This usually means an additional surgery, bone grafting.
Bone grafts typically involve using tissues from outside sources, such as cadaver bone, bovine bone, or a combination. However, the gold standard is considered to be the patient’s bone tissue, which can be obtained from various parts of the body. The obvious drawback here is that the procedure requires additional surgery to obtain the bone.
These are choices that patients and their implantologists can make together, considering all of the risks and benefits. On the other hand, if you act quickly enough, there is a good chance you won’t need the additional surgery
Need an Oral Implant? Why Wait?
Generally speaking, the quicker you act to get implants, the better off you are. Even if lightning strikes twice and another trauma later on causes the implant to come out, you will likely be better off than if you’d waited all the time, your bone tissues dwindling all the while.
Oral health aside, dental implants do have some important bonuses in terms of convenience in that they function almost exactly the same as natural teeth. This means no hassles with removing them for cleaning or if they become uncomfortable. Patients care for implants in the same way as they care for their other teeth – regular brushing and flossing. Moreover, believe it or not, people do sometimes leave dentures at places like restaurants or hotels. If you’re the kind of person who regularly has to worry about losing your wallet, keys, and smartphone, you might be relieved to know you don’t have to add another item to the list.
Finally, dental implants are widely considered the most attractive tooth replacement option and are custom-made to blend in visually with your other teeth. In cases where an entire row is missing, many patients take advantage of all-on-four dental implants, which handle a full row of teeth anchored by four implants with a single procedure. These procedures can provide a beautiful and healthy new smile in only a few hours.
Contact Beverly Hills Periodontics & Dental Implant Center
For people looking for outstanding dental care in the West Los Angeles area, Beverly Hills Periodontics & Dental Implant Center is considered one of the premier oral healthcare providers in the LA area. A widely-respected leader in the oral health field, Dr. Peiman Soleymani is known for his ability and consistently positive outcomes in periodontal disease treatment and performing implant procedures.
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