Dental implants offer a long term solution for replacing missing teeth, with a success rate which is usually better than bridges and dentures. Implants are regarded as the most advantageous solution to missing teeth. A dental implant replaces the root of the missing tooth. It is normally screw or cylinder shaped and provides a secure fixture on which to fit a dental crown, denture or bridge. Each implant is placed into a socket carefully drilled at the precise location of the intended tooth. Often the implant can be placed at the same time as removal of the tooth.
Implants are recommended in cases where teeth have been lost due to injury or trauma, tooth decay or the ageing process. A dental implant can have a positive impact on confidence due to its natural and attractive appearance. It will also restore full function to the mouth.
The main goal during installation of any implant is to achieve immediate close contact with the surrounding bone. This creates an initial stability, which over time is enhanced by the natural growth of bone into microscopic roughness on the implant surface.
Implants are made from titanium and do not harm or irritate surrounding teeth, gum tissue or bone structure. Once the implant is in place it will be left to heal before the tooth restoration is attached, which will usually take between 3 to 6 months.
Dental implants are suitable in most cases where a single tooth or a number of teeth are missing. However, there are exceptions. If you have low bone density in your jaw you will need to consider alternative options.
You may be suitable for a dental implant if:
Your oral and bone health will be assessed using X-rays and any issues will be treated before your implant is fitted. Local anaesthetic will be administered when the site is prepared for the implant to be fitted. The implant will be tightly fitted into the socket and the gum will then be stitched around the implant.
The area treated will need to heal before further treatment can be finished. The healing process can take between six weeks and six months, during this time a temporary crown will be fitted to the implant to maintain aesthetics. Once the gums are healed and the implant has integrated fully, the final restoration can take place.
During treatment, local anaesthetic is used or in some cases IV sedation. The healing process between treatments may be painful but your dentist can recommend medication that can help to lessen pain.
Due to the healing process needed to complete different stages of the treatment, dental implants can take up to six months to complete. Your dentist will give you an accurate timescale as each individual treatment is different.
When you have a missing tooth the bone where the tooth root was can disintegrate and change the shape of the face and jaw. A dental implant prevents this from happening and can stimulate bone growth in the area it is fitted. Denture wearers will also find that dental function is improved as an implant is much sturdier and also stays in place. Unlike other forms of restoration treatment, the teeth on either side of the gap do not need to be treated. Dental implants can also last up to 30 years if good oral hygiene is maintained.
Patients need to have enough bone for the implant to properly integrate, with bone density and volume being assessed prior to treatment to determine suitability. Bad oral hygiene can also affect suitability for treatment, as those who smoke and drink excessively are unlikely to be recommended for this treatment. Those with severe gum disease which affects bone loss will also need to be assessed. Treatment can take around six months and may be painful during the healing stages.