Dental implants can offer a permanent solution to the loss of a tooth, whether through decay or accident. In cases of extreme decay that has gone unchecked for a prolonged period of time, you might not necessarily be a candidate for standard dental implants. The overall state of your gums and jaw bone might mean that dental implants are unlikely to be successful, meaning that your dentist will not recommend them. But this doesn't mean that you cannot necessarily have your missing teeth replaced with a dental implant. It simply means that you might require a more specialised form of treatment.
If the health and density of your jaw bone has deteriorated over time, it might be that there is an insufficient support structure for dental implants. Your jaw bone is simply not strong enough to hold them. Dental implants rely on a process known as osseointegration, wherein the tissues in your jaw bone fuse with the metallic implant to hold it in a permanent position. Sometimes it's possible to strengthen a weakened jaw bone to still allow this to happen. Guided bone regeneration involves the addition of harvested organic bone tissue (or a synthetic bone substitute) to your jaw bone. This is a staggered process, and sometimes numerous applications are needed, each followed by an appropriate healing time. While this can be a prolonged process, eventually your jaw bones will have sufficient strength and density to support a standard dental implant.
A Zygomatic Implant
Bone regeneration might not be necessary if the dental implant is to be applied to the upper jaw bone. In this instance, your dentist might suggest a zygomatic implant. This is much like a standard dental implant, only with a longer bolt being used during the implantation process. The length of the bolt allows the implant to be securely anchored into the dense zygomatic bone, which can provide the necessary support for permanent dental implantation.
A Dental Bridge
When bone regeneration or a zygomatic implant is not possible, your dentist might suggest the next best option. A permanent dental bridge is a prosthetic tooth (or teeth) affixed to wire which is supported between the two teeth on either side of the gap. It can offer a permanent solution without the need for an implant. Strengthening work might be required if the support teeth are decayed in any way. This might be that any cavities need to be filled, or that the teeth need to be encased in a strengthening dental crown. A bridge-supported denture might not have the strength of a dental implant (as it sits over the gums as opposed to being implanted into them), and yet it's a usable prosthetic solution that corrects your smile.
If you are not a suitable candidate for a traditional dental implant, don't worry, as there are still some viable solutions when it comes to getting the smile you've been lacking.