What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are metallic cyclinders, made of titanium, which are surgically placed into the jaw bone where original teeth once existed. These root like cyclinders are used to secure a replacement tooth into the area where a tooth or teeth are missing. The implant acts as a false root which then allows a crown or bridge to be placed on top of the implant.

What are the advantages over conventional replacements?
The conventional methods of replacing missing teeth are crowns, bridges and dentures.

Crowns and bridges usually involve sticking false porcelain teeth onto existing teeth, which generally require filing down to act as retainers. This removal of large amounts of tooth tissue does compromise the health of these teeth. Whilst crowns and bridges are considered to be permanent replacements, they are likely to require replacement every 10-15 years.
Dentures are teeth attached to a plastic or metal plate. They can often be cumbersome, as they have to be taken out every day for cleaning. They may not always retain in place well if the shape of the gums and the bone in the mouth is neither of sufficient quantity or quality.

Though bridges and dentures can serve us satisfactorily, implants provide better support and generally result in more comfortable and stable replacement teeth. Implants provide better chewing efficiency and allow us to have permanent fixed teeth, without having to file down our own natural teeth for support or having to remove the teeth every day for cleaning. Implants, importantly also slow down the rate of shrinkage of our jaw bone which occurs as a result of tooth loss.

Are Dental Implants for Me ?
Many people wonder if dental implants are a solution to their dental problems. The following questions will help you to decide;

  • Am I missing at least one tooth?
  • Do I find the resultant appearance socially inhibiting?
  • Do I feel I have a problem eating and chewing my food properly?
  • Am I conscious of my appearance?
  • Psychologically, do I dislike wearing dentures?
  • Do my dentures move and feel uncomfortable?
  • Can I say that I am unable to taste my food properly due to the dentures?
  • Can I say that I am conscious of my speech due to my dentures or missing teeth?
  • Can I say that I feel uncomfortable and lacking in confidence due to my dentures or missing teeth?
  • Am I concerned about filing down my own natural teeth to have a bridge placed.
  • Am I concerned about my crowns and/or bridges which continuously fall off.
  • I believe my general lifestyle could be improved by improving my teeth.

If you can answer yes to any of the above, then you may be a candidate for dental implants.

What is the actual procedure ?

Stage 1.
The surgeon places a metal titanium root into your jaw. While the root bonds to your bone, you are able to wear either temporary crowns, bridges or dentures. Should a tooth require extraction prior to implant placement, it is often possible to extract the tooth and place the implant directly into the extraction socket at the same appointment. The healing process normally takes between 3 and 6 months, but a temporary prosthesis (crown or bridge) can be placed immediately onto the implant if required. During this healing phase, the bone grows onto and fuses with the titanium. This phenomenon is known as osseointegration and basically means that a strong biological bond develops between the bone and the implant.

Stage 2.
The surgeon attaches an extension onto the metal root to bring it through the gum. In some of the newer implant systems, the metal titanium root and the extension come as one piece thus enabling us to combine stages 1 and 2 and allowing the immediate placement of a temporary crown or bridge.

Stage 3.
The surgeon or your own dentist, together with a dental technician then creates the final restoration.

Stage 4.
Proper brushing, flossing and regular check-ups will help you to maintain your dental implants in perfect condition.

Once a tooth is removed, the bone surrounding the tooth is removed naturally by the body in a process called resorption. Resorption takes place very quickly in the first six months and then slows but never stops. The jaws appear over time to shrink and if left untreated, the loss of bone from the jaw can progress so far that a denture will not stay in place. This can cause further problems for implants as too little bone may be left remaining to support an implant. Thus, if placed immediately at extraction and before any bone resorption has occurred, the maximum amount of bone and hence the better chance of a good successful result will be available. This can also provide huge advantages from a cosmetic point of view.

In some circumstances such as infections, cysts or where insufficient bone is already present around a tooth due for extraction, an immediate implant may not be possible.

On rare occasions, even after careful planning with radiographs and/or scans, we may find that once the tooth is removed, an immediate implant may not be possible after all, due to poor remaining bone support or infection. In these circumstances, the bone must be allowed to heal, either with or without the aid of a bone graft for a suitable period of time, whilst new healthy bone grows into the area.

Maintenance – following completion of implant treatment, patients need to clean thoroughly around implants using brushing and flossing in just the same way you would around natural teeth. In some areas, special floss, interdental brushes and other cleaning aid may be needed to maintain good oral hygiene. Cleaning is not at all difficult and will be demonstrated to you. On-going care will be similar to any patient with natural teeth and you simply need to maintain regular check-up appointments with your usual dentist.

Am I too old to have dental implants ?
There is no upper age limit for patients to underg…

Is everyone a candidate for implant treatment ?
In general, anyone healthy enough to undergo routi…

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The Association of Dental Implantology

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