Dental implants are used to replace teeth which are either missing or require extraction.
A dental implant is made from titanium and is the metal ‘root’ that is inserted into the jaw. With time the titanium implant fuses with the jaw bone (a process called osseo-integration). The artificial tooth (crown) or denture is attached to the implant by the use of an abutment.
What is the advantage of a dental implant?
As an implant is secured within the jawbone, the replacement tooth or teeth look, feel, and function almost like your own natural teeth.
The advantages of dental implants include
- Improved appearance, compared to removable dentures or missing teeth
- Improved speech, eating and comfort compared to removable dentures
- Improved oral and gingival health compared to removable dentures
- No cutting of adjacent teeth, which is required to place a bridge
- Maintenance of jaw bone that can be resorbed after extraction, affecting facial appearance.
Can anyone have an implant?
In most cases, a person healthy enough to have routine dental surgery can be considered for a dental implant.
You need to have healthy gums and bone support, and be prepared to be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits.
The success of the implant can be influenced by medications and health issues as well as habits such as heavy smoking or alcohol consumption, or heavy teeth grinding. Smoking impairs healing and may cause early or late implant failure by affecting the implants integration with the bone. People with poorly controlled chronic diseases including heart disease and diabetes, people who are being actively treated for osteoporosis and people who have received radiation to the head and neck are usually not good candidates for dental implants.
What is involved in having a dental implant placed?
Your dentist will need to conduct a clinical examination and diagnostic tests to confirm that you are suitable for a dental implant. These tests may include radiographs, perhaps even a CT scan to assess the quality and quantity of bone in the proposed implant site.
Most people who have received dental implants say that there is very little discomfort involved in the procedure. A local anesthetic is used and most people feel less discomfort than an extraction.
The 1st stage of the implant placement process involves the surgical placement of the titanium implant into the bone. The implant is buried under the gum completely, or sometimes a small healing cap may be visible in your mouth. Occasionally an implant can be placed immediately following an extraction but normally 3-4 months healing after the extraction is preferred. A 12 week healing process following implant placement is required to allow the bone to grow around the implant, anchoring it securely to the jaw.
The 2nd stage may occur over 2 appointments, but before proceeding your dentist will first check that the implant has ‘integrated’ into the bone by taking an x-ray. Implants completely buried under the gum during stage 1 are then exposed at the first of two appointments and a healing cap placed using a local anaesthetic. At the 2nd stage
appointment your dentist will take an impression for the new tooth or teeth to be constructed.
The final stage involves the attachment of the new tooth or teeth to the abutment. The abutment connects the crown to the implant buried in the bone. Instead of one or more individual crowns, some patients may have attachments placed on multiple implants to retain and support a removable partial or full denture.
How do I look after my dental implant?
A dental implant is designed to be long lasting but is still susceptible to gum disease (peri-implantitis) just like natural teeth.
Like natural teeth, implant retained crowns that are not regularly brushed and flossed can develop plaque and calculus deposits, that eventually lead to problems including bleeding gums, loss of bone, infection and pain.
While a well cared for implant, anchored by good bone can last for many years, ongoing hygiene treatment, or repairs may still be needed. Your dentist will need to monitor your implants to make sure the integrity of the osseo-integration is stable, and that the implant crowns, bridgework or dentures are functioning adequately. Good oral hygiene and good general health is important to maintaining a healthy dental implant.