What is a Dental Implant ?
Where teeth are missing, a dental implant can be used to support a false tooth or several teeth. A titanium screw replaces the root of a missing tooth and is inserted in the jawbone, where it acts just like a tooth root.
- Implants have been around for some time now and are well established. They are completely safe. Dental implants, just like natural teeth, will last as long as you care for them well. In the case of dental implants you need to follow care instructions and to attend for maintenance appointments regularly. Making sure that you follow these steps will determine how long the implants last. Failing to care for your implants will cause a coating to develop in much the same way that it would on neglected natural teeth. This might lead to general discomfort, soreness, bleeding or gum infection very similar to the problems you might get with neglected natural teeth. Left untreated, this can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort – all problems you could get with natural teeth and this could lead potentially to implant failure. Well looked after implants in strong bone should last for many years. There will be, however, no lifetime guarantee.
- Yes, you could. It is possible to have implants from one tooth to a full set.
- The bone in your jaw will determine suitability for implant. Your dentist will find out how much bone you have with special tests. If it is found that there is not enough bone or if that bone is not healthy enough, implants may not be possible without carrying out bone grafting first.
- Having an implant placed is often an easier procedure than taking a tooth out and it will usually be done using a local anaesthetic of the type usually used at the dentist. There will be no pain at the time but, afterwards, just as you would if you had a tooth out, for about a week after the surgery there might be some discomfort. If you are very anxious or nervous or if your particular case is complicated, your dentists might supplement that anaesthetic with a sedative. General anaesthetics are very seldom used for implant surgery and would only be used for the most complicated of cases.
- Before the dental implants treatment begins the whole timetable of what will happen will be explained by your dental team. It is even possible to fit some false teeth at the time that the implants are fitted in a process called “immediately loaded implant”. Your dentist will tell you whether you would be suitable for this, or not. Traditionally the false teeth are fitted 3 to 4 months after implant surgery has been done. These are all approximate timings and your dental team will be able to tell you specifically how long your treatment will take and what options are available to you.
- You will be given full instructions on how to look after your implant by your dental team. Some painkillers may be given after your surgery or you could make sure you have bought some that are at home so that you have them to hand if you need them in the few days after the treatment.
- After dental implants have been put in, the jawbone needs to grow onto them so that the two fuse together(Osseointegration), a process that can take a few months. Sometimes, however, the implants might be stable enough at the time they are placed for fitting of the false teeth/crown to be carried out earlier than this.While you wait for your permanent teeth you might have temporary dentures. If you were already wearing full dentures, you would keep wearing them during the healing process. Your dentures will need to be altered to fine tune the fit after the surgery, and additionally a ‘healing cap’ would be placed onto the implant site for protection.
- What about cleaning implant teeth?What will my crown made of?Aftercare is certainly important for long-lasting, success of your implant but cleaning the teeth will be no more difficult than cleaning natural teeth. Your dental team will offer detailed advice about how best to care for your implants. However, there may be areas that are difficult to reach and you’ll be shown how to clean them. You may need to visit your hygienist more often but your dental team will be able to talk to you about this.
- If you don’t care for them as advised, gum disease could affect the implanted teeth.Keeping them clean and having regular check ups with your dental team should keep problems at bay. The health of implants is also affected by smoking and if you do smoke, you will have to put more work into looking after your implants. The best thing would be to give up and indeed some dentists will not carry out dental implants for smokers.
- Most teeth that have been attached to implants can only be removed or fitted by a dentist. However, if your implants support removable dentures then you will be able to remove the dentures for cleaning.
- Most implants should look identical to natural teeth.
- For a single missing tooth you will need to have an implant to support it. If you have several missing teeth next to each other, you could have one implant for each of the missing teeth. There are designs where implants can be used to support several teeth, a lot like a traditional bridge. Your dental team will discuss all the possibilities and options with you.
- In the same way that natural teeth can, implants and the teeth supported by them could be damaged by an accident. So if you are likely to sustain damage, for instance if you play sports, it is vital that you wear a professionally made mouth guard.If only the teeth sustain damaged, they can usually be replaced. If the titanium implant is damaged and cannot be repaired, and proves too difficult to remove, it can be left in the jaw quite safely and another implant could be fitted alongside the damaged one..
- This would be highly unlikely and very rare. If the implant were to become loose while it was healing, or just afterwards, it can be removed easily and your jaw allowed to heal. Once healing is complete then another implant will be fitted. Alternately a dentist could make a bridge, and fit it to successfully implanted false teeth.
- Laser whitening or ‘power whitening’ is now available. This treatment involves a light or laser being shone on the teeth in order to activate the chemical. The light will speed up the chemical reaction and the shade alteration will be achieved more quickly. Laser whitening will achieve tooth whitening of about5 or 6 shades. Treatment will take about an hour and must only be undertaken by a dental team.
- Often the cost of dental implant treatment will be just a little over that of conventional dental treatments with crowns and bridges. Looking at it on a long term basis then implants would usually offer a more satisfactory and cost-effective option.There are some other advantages to dental implants if an implant was fitted as replacement for a single tooth, there would be no need to cut down the teeth either side of it whereas with a bridge, your dentist would cut teeth down to fit crowns to neighboring teeth so that the bridge was supported.Normal dentures can affect your eating, drinking and even your speech because the dentures will move about. Teeth attached to an implant don’t move because they are set into the bone firmly and so behave similar to natural teeth.
- Talk to a dentist near you. Many will already carried out this type of treatment, and will be able to give you the advice you need. They might refer you to an experienced ‘implantologist’ for a pre-treatment assessment and for dental implant surgery.
- Always ask for a treatment plan, and an estimate, and if you are not happy with all the answers you get move on and get a second opinion. You will be investing a lot of time and money in your new smile and it is worth ensuring that you know and are happy with what you are getting.