Dental implants are small screw shaped attachments usually made from titanium. It is inserted within the jawbone in place of a missing tooth root. Once osseointegration (when the bone attaches firmly to the implant) has occurred, a replacement tooth can be secured to the top of the implant. This new tooth can look, feel and perform just like a natural tooth. It is also possible to use multiple implants to support a denture or bridge.
Implant secured or stabilised replacement teeth are more comfortable than conventional dentures because there is no slipping or movement. This eliminates some of the key worries of dentures and improves self confidence.
Dental implants are the alternative to bridgework for permanently replacing missing teeth, eliminating the need to grind down healthy teeth. When teeth are missing the surrounding bone begins to shrink. Dental implants can help to maintain the shape and structure of the jaw bone.
The implant process normally involves several steps that take place over a period of time from three to nine months. Although there are various implant treatment methods, a typical process often includes:
Assessment Planning – At this initial consultation, x-rays and preliminary models may be taken, and then a written plan will be produced which will detail the sequence of treatment and its cost.
Implant Placement – A relatively simple minor surgical procedure that is performed under sterile conditions in the dental surgery under local anaesthesia, and if indicated, supplemented by conscious sedation.
Integration Period – Although some implants can be loaded into function immediately or soon after surgery, it is more usual that a period of three months or more be allowed for the implant to fully integrate before loading. Your own denture or a simple adhesive bridge can be worn during the healing process.
The Restorative Phase – Once integrated, the implants may need to be uncovered and can be brought into function with a variety of restorations. The replacement teeth are constructed by a specialist dental laboratory working closely with the dentist.
Maintenance – To maintain the health of the soft tissue, bone levels, and the integrity of the restoration, the patient must clean thoroughly around the implants as instructed by the dentist, and should regularly attend for reviews.
Implants are a well-established, tried-and-tested treatment. 90 per cent of modern implants last for at least 15 years.
Yes. You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants – from one single tooth to a complete set.
It depends on the state of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist will arrange for a number of special tests to assess the amount of bone still there. If there is not enough, or if it isn’t healthy enough, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area first.
Placing the implants requires a small operation. This can be carried out under local anaesthetic with sedation or with a general anaesthetic. You will not feel any pain at the time, but you may feel some discomfort during the week following the surgery. This is usually due to having stitches in place, and the normal healing process.
No. The implants need to bond (integrate) with the bone after they have been placed. This takes at least 3 months in the lower jaw and 6 months in the upper jaw. If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you will have a temporary restoration in the meantime. If you have complete dentures, then you can wear them throughout the healing period once they have been adjusted after the surgery.