Dental implants can be a permanent replacement for damaged or missing teeth, or to replace ill-fitting dentures or bridgework. Implants are specially designed metal screws that are inserted to the jaw bone to replace the roots and provide a foundation for placing artificial teeth, which function and look like the real teeth. One or more implants can be placed to help you regain your smile.
Extraction of the teeth and immediate placement of the implant may be possible but this will depend on the decision of the dentist at initial consultation.
Usually it is necessary to leave an implant, without the artificial tooth attached to it, for several months while the bone attaches to its surface. This is needed to make the implant firm. During this time a temporary denture or bridge may be worn to fill the gap.
The benefits of dental implants
Implants have several advantages:
- It enables you to smile and talk again with confidence. With back teeth missing your face can sink in and implants can resolve this.
- You can eat properly.
- They can prevent bone loss that occurs when the teeth are removed.
How many implants will I need?
This will depend on the size of the gap. It is not always necessary to match the number of teeth that are missing and eight implants are often enough to replace a full arch of teeth.
What treatment is involved?
If a tooth needs to be replaced and an immediate implant inserted, the tooth is removed very gently in order to preserve the bone and gum. Afterwards the discomfort experienced is typically no different to that felt following a normal tooth extraction.
There is no need for stronger injections during the procedure as the same local anaesthetic used to numb the tooth for extraction is often sufficient.
The gum is normally placed to cover the implant for six months, to allow the bone to fuse round the implant so it becomes firm in the bone. After six months the dentist will expose the implant, fasten a post to it to attach the teeth, and take impressions for the crown, bridge or dentures. The teeth are made from porcelain or acrylic (dentures), which is very natural in appearance, and then glued onto the post.
You and your dentist can choose which artificial teeth to suit:
Removable. This type is similar to a conventional removable denture but is mounted on a metal frame that is joined to the implant and so it clicks into place, making the denture much more secure. It can be removed for repair and daily cleaning.
Fixed. In this type, an artificial tooth is permanently screwed or cemented onto an individual implant abutment. You can’t remove the tooth for cleaning or during sleep. Most of the time, each crown is attached to its own dental implant. However, because implants are exceptionally strong, several teeth can be replaced by one implant if they’re bridged together.
Am I a suitable candidate for implants?
In general, dental implants may be right for you if you:
- Have one or more missing teeth
- Have enough bone in which to place the implants, or are suitable for bone grafting
- Do not smoke
- Have healthy oral tissues
- Do not have any health medical conditions that can hinder placing implants
- Are unable or unwilling to wear dentures
Like any surgery, dental implant surgery carries some risks. Problems are rare, and if they do occur, often they are easily treated.
- Infection at the implant site
- Injury or damage to surrounding structures, such as other teeth, blood vessels or nerves, which can lead to numbness in certain areas of your mouth
- Sinus problems, as dental implants placed in the upper jaw can protrude into the sinus.
Long term care:
Dental implants are mostly successful. Occasionally they might not integrate with the bone and have to be removed.
Gum disease can occur round implants, just like teeth, and the loss of the implant can result.
Excellent oral hygiene is vital. While the dentist can clean round the implant, you need to carry out excellent cleaning round the implant. Your dentist can show you how to clean.
Visit your dentist regularly to make sure your implant is working properly and to have cleaning.
Avoid damaging habits which can damage your implant – chewing hard objects, smoking and be aware of grinding your teeth.
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