A dental implant is a titanium “root” device, used in dentistry to support restorations that resemble a tooth or group of teeth to replace missing teeth. They can be used to support a number of dental prostheses, including crowns, implant-supported bridges or dentures.
Not all dentists are able to offer dental implants so if you feel that they might be the answer for you, you will need to check with your regular dentist. If your practice does not provide the service, they will be able to recommend one that does.
A dental implant involves a socket drilled into the jaw using exact measurements as to position – you have to make sure that the bite isn’t changed (unless this is a deliberate intention). The socket can have a thread, in which case the tooth is screwed in; if a smooth socket is used, the tooth needs tapping into place and the choice is usually the dentist’s – there is do distinct advantage with either method. The implant has to be tightly fitting – this is what the terms ‘osseointegrated’ or ‘endosseous’, mean; that the implants have become one with the bone.
When it comes to deciding how many teeth can be supported per implants, the dentist will look at how dense the bone in the jaw is. Generally speaking, the bone in the upper jaw is less dense than in the lower, so not so many teeth can be implanted there. The lower jaw (just above the chin) is the strongest place.
When you decide on implants, you may need to make some lifestyle changes to give them the best chance of success. Your dentist will ask you various lifestyle questions before embarking on a programme of fitting dental implants and some dentists will not even consider fitting implants in smokers. As long as you are in general good health, there should be no problem with receiving implants, although bone density may be an issue.
Failures aren’t common, but if there is not a good tight fit and therefore strong osseointegration, one or more implants many fail. Statistics are misleading – around 5% are considered a failure, but as more than one implant may fail in the same person, this is not the same as saying one in twenty people will experience a problem. The actual number is far lower. You should discuss failure with your dentist though – if you have a lot of teeth on one implant, it could create a problem, if only a temporary one.
Teeth supported on an implant don’t need too much special care, as long as your routine dental hygiene is of a high standard. You are trying to prevent excess build up of plaque, which can cause problems; if you lose teeth which are not supported on an implant, you could cause problems related to a changed bite. You will get help from your practice’s dental hygienist to begin with and also most dentists see you more often than normal in the first year.
You will need quite a few appointments with your dentist before, during and after treatment. You will need to be able to attend all planned visits, so make sure that your calendar can support this before you begin. If your teeth need work, get it done before the implant process begins, because it will not be appropriate for other dental work to be done while you are in the midst of the process. After your implants have been fitted you should expect a healing period of up to six months. You will have any stitches out after around a week.
Depending on where your implants are positioned, you may have temporary teeth or a denture. You will need to visit your dentist regularly during the healing period to make sure that they are not causing any problem. This is a handy opportunity for your dentist to keep an eye on your healing process, but do get in touch if you feel any unusual pain or discomfort.
When the implants have healed, the teeth will be connected. The longer you can leave it before this stage the better, as the implants will become more securely bedded if they do not have to carry the load of teeth and the stresses and strains of eating. Sometime it is possible to have a set of interim teeth fitted to the implants, which are replicas of the final ones. This is a good way to make sure that you are happy with the final look and also if they feel comfortable in wear. Although it is possible to make adjustments later, getting it right in the first place is obviously much better.
Having implants fitted should not be considered a quick fix – all in all, it is likely to take around nine months from start to finish, but can take over a year if bone grafts are needed. This may seem a long time, but the procedure will give you healthy teeth for life and most people agree that it is worth the wait.
Even if you have all of your teeth replaced by implants, you will still need dental check-ups, to keep an eye on the health of your gums and your mouth in general. The check-ups are never painful and, of course, you will never be told you need a filling!
All dental implants are placed within the bone, ergo they are similair to an actual tooth-root. The bone of the jaw accepts and osseointegrates with the titanium post. Osseointegration is the fusion of the surrounding bone with the implant surface.
If you’d like to read more about dental implants, click on the link.