A dental implant can be thought of as an artificial tooth root that is submerged into the jawbone. When dental work such as a crown, fixed bridge or a full set of dentures is added, one or more missing teeth can be replaced.
A dental implant is fabricated from a very strong, biocompatible material placed in a simple procedure that, generally, is as convenient as a tooth extraction. After an initial healing period, during which the implant is buried in bone and left undisturbed under gum tissue, it is uncovered and connected to a small metal post that secures and supports the artificial tooth. The implant material is extremely biocompatible. The bone grows around the implant and bonds to it in a process called osseointegration which results in a very strong and well seated implant.
A dental implant is the closest thing to a natural tooth your dentist can give you. They feel much more natural and secure than traditional removable dentures, especially if these are loose fitting because of extensive bone loss. If several adjacent teeth are missing, a fixed bridge may be attached to dental implants as an alternative to a removable partial denture plate. Dental implants allow for the replacement of a missing tooth without modifying adjacent teeth. Your dentist will be happy to discuss alternatives for restoring your dental function with you.
USE OF DENTAL IMPLANTS IN TOOTH REPLACEMENT
1. When a single tooth is missing at the front or back the implant will be used to support a crown.
2. When many or all teeth are missing, implants are used to support a bridge.
3. Support under complete dentures - there is an enormous improvement in the fit, comfort and chewing ability of dentures that are attached to implants. Support implants can also be placed under partial dentures to improve the fit, and remove the need for unsightly clasps.
frequently asked questions
ARE IMPLANTS SAFE AND HOW LONG WILL THEY LAST?
Implants are a well-established, tried-and-tested treatment. 90+ per cent of modern implants last for at least 15 years.
I HAVE SOME OF MY OWN TEETH, CAN I STILL GET IMPLANTS?
Yes. You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants – from one single tooth to a complete set.
CAN IMPLANTS ALWAYS BE USED TO REPLACE MISSING TEETH?
It depends on the state of the bone in your jaw. We can arrange for a number of special tests to assess the amount of bone still there. If there is not enough, or if it isn't healthy enough, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area first.
DO IMPLANTS HURT?
Placing the implants requires a small surgical procedure. This can easily be carried out under local anaesthetic with optional sedation. You will not feel any pain at the time, but you may feel some discomfort during the week following the surgery. This is part of the normal healing process.
CAN I HAVE NEW TEETH STRAIGHT AWAY?
Sometimes teeth can be placed on the implants immediately after they are placed, but this can increase the risk of failure. Generally the implants need to bond (integrate) with the bone after they have been placed. This takes at least 3 months in the lower jaw and up to 6 months in the upper jaw. During this healing phase you will have a temporary restoration (bridge or denture). If you have complete dentures, then you can wear them throughout the healing period once they have been adjusted after the surgery.
HOW LONG DOES THE TREATMENT TAKE?
It depends on how complicated your treatment is, where the teeth are to be placed, and the quality of gum and jawbone in the area. We will be able to give you a timetable after your initial assessment. As a guideline, expect a minimum of 3 months and a maximum of 12 months from the initial assessment to the time when the new teeth are finally attached to the implants.
ARE THE TEETH DIFFICULT TO CLEAN?
Cleaning around the teeth attached to the implants is similar to cleaning natural teeth. There may be areas that require special attention, and we will show you specific techniques to help you.
IF I HAD GUM DISEASE WHEN I HAD MY OWN TEETH, WILL I GET IT WITH THE TEETH ATTACHED TO THE IMPLANTS?
If you keep them clean, and don't smoke, then you should not have any problems. However, implants can be susceptible to bone and gum loss (similar to gum disease) if you don't care for them well enough.
CAN I TAKE THE TEETH OUT IF THEY ARE ATTACHED TO THE IMPLANTS?
Most artificial teeth attached to implants can only be placed and removed by the dentist. However, if you have complete dentures fixed to the implants by bars, then you'll be able to take them out for cleaning.
DO THE IMPLANTS SHOW?
We will make sure that the titanium doesn't show and that no metal is visible. In cases where there has been a lot of bone and gum loss prior to the implant placement, the porcelain tooth may have a slightly longer appearance.
DO I HAVE AN IMPLANT FOR EACH MISSING TOOTH?
No, unless you're only having a single tooth replaced. Normally, five or six implants are used to replace all the teeth in one jaw, as each implant can usually support two teeth. For a few missing teeth, two or three implants may be used.
WHAT IF I GET HIT IN THE FACE?
Implants and the teeth they support can be damaged by an accident in the same way that natural teeth can. We would recommend a professionally made gum shield be worn during all contact sports, as repair or replacement of broken implants is extremely challenging.
WHAT HAPPENS IF THE IMPLANT DOES NOT BOND (INTEGRATE) WITH THE BONE?
This happens very rarely. If the implant becomes loose during the healing period or just after, then it is easily removed and healing takes place in the normal way. Once the jaw has healed, another implant can be placed there.
IS THE TREATMENT EXPENSIVE?
The costs for implants have reduced dramatically in the last few years, making them considerably more affordable. They are also eligible for MED 2 relief, a refund of 20% of the total fee. Our fee guide outlines the costs for single implants, but multiple teeth attract further discounts, and may not require an implant to be placed for each tooth being replaced. We will be able to offer you a written quotation for your customised treatment plan during your consultation.