What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root made out of Titanium which provides the base for a crown to be placed and gives the look and feel of a natural tooth. Implants are used to replace missing teeth or tooth, and be used for a single tooth or multiple teeth including full jaw dental implant placement if required.

The implant is small and looks like a miniature screw which is surgically placed into the jawbone. This acts as an artificial tooth root, which supports a restoration such as a crown, bridge, or denture.

Dental implants are typically made of titanium which is a material that is well accepted by the body. Over the course of time patient’s jaw bone fuses with the Titanium. There are various implant systems available and your dentist will select the appropriate implants according to your treatment plan. Some dentists have their own dental laboratory or contract work out to a commercial dental laboratory where custom dental implants are made.

Can anyone have dental implants?

Your dentist will be able to advise if dental implants are the right treatment for you. Your dentist will conduct an examination to evaluate the general condition of your mouth and x-rays will be used to evaluate the quantity and quality of bone helping to determine whether or not implants are a suitable treatment option for you.

Factors such as smoking, drinking and existing health conditions, such as diabetes, will be taken into consideration by your dentist before offering dental implant treatment and preparing a custom dental implant treatment plan. Usually these issues are things for your dentist to be aware of, rather than excluding you from treatment with modern materials and techniques.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

Dental implants offer several key advantages compared to other treatment options:

1. Adjacent teeth are not altered or affected

2. Prevents bone loss and preserves facial appearance

3. Can be more cost effective in the long term

4. Improves your smile and confidence

5. Natural look and feel

6. Implants can last a lifetime if properly cared for

7. Easier to clean and maintain than other alternatives

8. You can enjoy all your favourite foods and drinks

9. If you wear dentures, securing them on implants is proven to improve your oral health

10. Can be used as a cosmetic dentistry smile makeover treatment

What are same day teeth?

“Teeth in a day” refers to a procedure where your teeth are replaced in a single day – that is, you will have existing unhealthy teeth extracted, implants placed into your jaw, and a prefabricated bridge fitted straight on to them. The term can be confusing as it refers to the day of the surgical procedure, but there will need to be some preparatory work and examinations, x rays and scans to ensure that your new teeth are made and ready to be fitted, along with the planning for your surgery.

Will I have any gaps in my teeth?

Dentists can provide temporary solutions which look just like your natural teeth, these look attractive and protect your implants and gums while they heal. Occasionally, after more extensive procedures, it may be desirable to leave things to heal with no external irritation to the implant site. Your dentist will discuss the pros and cons with you, allowing you to make an informed decision about your short and long term needs.

Why are dental implants recommended?

Dental implants offer several important advantages over other treatment options:

Adjacent teeth are not compromised – Implant treatment does not require modification of healthy adjacent teeth as is the case with most bridge or denture treatment

Prevents bone loss and preserves facial appearance – Implant treatment helps maintain bone volume as the implants are mimicking the tooth root. With other treatment options e.g. dentures/bridges bone loss may continue and your facial profile may change

Improves Confidence – Implants look and feel like your natural teeth improving your self-confidence. No uncomfortable or embarrassing moments with non supported dentures and no need for messy adhesives.

Cost – Although implants will initially cost more than other treatment options over time the cost differential will be neutralised as the ongoing costs of other options continue to add up.

Comfort – Dental implants feel like natural teeth, no rubbing or soreness

Resilience – There is no lifetime guarantee with dental implants but they can last many, many years; whereas a traditional option such as bridge/crown may need to be replaced every 5-7 years.

Maintenance – Implants are easily maintained similar to natural teeth

Enjoy all your favourite foods – Implants give you an improved ability to chew and enjoy the foods you love and improve your nutrition.

Do all dentists offer dental implants?

Simple dental implant treatments can be done by a general dentist. However you will be referred to a specialist to place the implant into the jaw bone and then returned to your dentist for the final phase to have the crown, denture or bridge fitted. For more complex cases or if your dentist does not do any part of the treatment you may only see the specialist for the entire treatment. Discuss with your own dentist about what they can offer and if they can refer you to a dental implants specialist.

When is a dental implant recommended?

Dental implants can be used to treat a range of dental problems.  Your dentist will be able to advise you of the best option for your individual requirements. If you are missing a single tooth, a single implant is placed and a crown is used to replace the missing tooth. If you are missing multiple teeth, multiple implants are placed and crowns or a bridge can replace the missing teeth. You may not necessarily have one implant per tooth. Your dentist may decide one implant can support more than one tooth. If you have no teeth at all, an implant supported fixed denture uses several implants and your new teeth are securely attached using screws into the implants.  Your dentist will be able to remove this type of denture for routine cleanings, but otherwise your teeth will remain in place.

An implant retained removable denture uses two or more implants and the denture is secured by attachments and no adhesive is required.  You will be able to remove this restoration at home.

How is a dental implant placed?

To have an implant placed you will undergo a surgical procedure usually using local anaesthetic.

If you have a tooth extracted your dentist may decide to place the implant into the extraction site straight away however normally they will allow time to heal.

Your dentist or implant specialist will cut the gum through to the bone, where the implant is to be placed. A hole will be drilled for the implant to be placed. This will be done in a sequence of steps using several drills to achieve the correct depth and width necessary for the implant.

Once the hole is complete the implant will be screwed into place. Depending on your personal treatment plan the your dental surgeon will then place a healing abutment onto the implant site or cover the screw. Your gum will be stitched and a temporary crown will be placed. Once the implant site has healed your dentist will fit the final restoration. Treatment time can take between 6 weeks to 1 year depending your individual needs. Your dentist will be able to provide a treatment plan and duration.

Is it painful?

The procedure is relatively straight forward and can normally be done under local anaesthetic. You may experience a level of discomfort and you are likely to be given painkillers after the surgery to help with any pain. In general, most patients report that the procedure was much less painful than they expected.

Are there any complications?

As with any surgical procedure there are certain risks or complications associated with dental implant treatment. Every individual is different so ensure you discuss the risks with your dentist. Some of the complications include: reactions to the anaesthetic, swelling or discomfort, implant failing to integrate which means that the jaw bone does not fuse with the implant so it will become loose and may require additional surgery. Long term complications include perimplantitis, this is similar to gum disease, the gum becomes inflamed and there is bone loss around the implant site. You can reduce this risk through careful brushing and regular checkups.

How long does the surgery take?

This depends on the complexity of your treatment but usually each implant can take between 30 minutes to 2 hours to place into the jaw bone. This will depend on the amount of additional work required in terms of any bone grafting or work required on your gums.

How long do implants last?

As implants are similar to natural teeth, they should last for many years and with proper home care and regular hygiene visits to your dentist they can last a lifetime. You should visit your dentist every 6 months as a minimum. However there is no lifetime guarantee or warranty for any dental procedures, including implants. Implants have the best potential for a long term solution to tooth loss, as other teeth are not affected as with other procedures, so in terms of quality implants are the best option.

How much do implants cost?

Costs vary between dentists but overall implants are initially more expensive than other treatment options. However over time implant treatment proves to be the better financial choice after 7 years on average. Patients and dentists generally agree that implants are a superior treatment choice. 

What maintenance is needed?

Implants should be cared for in the same was as your natural teeth. You should look after implants in the same way as natural teeth paying particular attention to the implant sites. Brushing twice a day, flossing and regular hygiene appointments will help keep them healthy.

Are they safe?

Implants are a well established treatment option with a proven track record, however as with any surgical procedure there are certain associated risks and complications. Your dentist will be able to advise. The current form of dental Implants have been in use for over 30 years with many scientific studies documenting the success of implant treatment. Dental implants are typically made of titanium which is a material that is well accepted by the body.

Is there an age limit?

There is no upper age limit for this treatment. Your overall health and the condition of your mouth will determine if this treatment is suitable for you. Patients can be too young for an implant.  If you are still growing your dentist will advise you whether you should wait before starting implant treatment.

What training and qualifications do dentists have?

The answer to this question may surprise you, as there are no hard and fast rules dictating how much training a dentist should receive to handle dental implants. The General Dental Council has issued guidelines on training in implants in the UK, but they are just that – guidelines. Based on our observations, the training that implant dentists will have received will range from a multi-year, university postgraduate qualification to a weekend course, sponsored by an implant company or a private training organisation.

Implant dentistry has become much more mainstream after many years of clinical research and also academic consensus on the efficacy of the different techniques. Many of the academic qualifications in implant dentistry are relatively new, as there has been a drive to raise standards.

Why are Dental Implants a better long term option?

When looking at the cost of implants, they can seem more expensive than, for example, a traditional bridge. While it may be tempting to go for the (short term) saving, this can be false economy or compromise.

Why do other options like a bridge work out more expensive in the long run?

Bridges need adjustment and replacing as the teeth that support them which most likely were healthy prior to having the bridge fitted decay and fail. More teeth may be lost which will require longer bridges to be fitted over time to cover an increasing gap, with the inevitable loss of aesthetics. Hence this is why implants are the better long term option.

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