What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants can be used to replace one or more missing teeth. When considering the various options for tooth replacement, dental implants are considered to be the closest thing to a natural tooth. With high success rates of over 96 per cent, dental implants are now widely used to replace missing teeth.
A dental implant is a titanium screw that is placed into the jawbone to replace a missing tooth root. The implant acts as a substitute for a tooth root and can be used to replace a single missing tooth or many teeth. If you are missing one tooth, an artificial replacement tooth (porcelain crown) can be secured to a dental implant to replace your tooth. If you are missing several teeth, multiple implants can be used to support a bridge or a denture.
Advantages of Dental Implants
Dental implants have many advantages that can make them the ideal solution to replace your missing teeth.
- When considering the various options for tooth replacement, dental implants are considered to be the closest thing to a natural tooth;
- They can look and function like a natural tooth;
- With high success rates of over 96 per cent, dental implants are now widely used to replace missing teeth;
- Dental implants can be used to replace a single missing tooth or several missing teeth;
- Implants can be used to support full or partial dentures, making them more stable and comfortable to wear;
- Dental implants can avoid the need to prepare or modify your adjacent, healthy teeth, which would be required to provide a conventional bridge; and
- Dental implants can help you to eat more comfortably and speak and smile with confidence.
Dental Implant Treatment
Planning Your Dental Implant Treatment
It will be important to carry out a detailed examination to determine whether implants are the best option for you. This is determined on an individual basis for each patient. Generally, the ideal candidates for treatment with dental implants will have:
- Good general health;
- Good oral health, including healthy gums; and
- Adequate bone quality and volume to place the dental implant.
Your first visit will involve a review of your medical history to determine if dental implant treatment is a suitable option.
A comprehensive dental examination will be carried out to assess your overall oral health, the health of your gums, the bite and to assess the area where the dental implant may be placed. If it is determined that you have periodontal disease, this will need to be treated before dental implants are placed.
You will then be referred for a scan that will provide detailed information regarding the quality and volume of bone available to allow an implant to be placed. The scan will also help to determine the size and type of dental implant that is most suitable for you.
If your scan reveals that there is insufficient bone, it may be possible to carry out a bone grafting procedure to allow an implant to be placed.
This important planning process will allow your Periodontist to determine whether dental implants are the best solution for the replacement of your missing tooth.
Dental Implant Procedure
A dental implant is a titanium screw that is placed into the jawbone to replace a missing tooth root. The procedure to place a dental implant is usually carried out in the dental chair, under a local anaesthetic. This appointment involves gently preparing the area and placing the implant into the bone.
The implant will either be covered over by the surrounding gum or a small metal cap will be placed on top of the implant to assist with the healing of the surrounding gum. This metal cap may be slightly visible in the mouth during the healing period. An x-ray will be taken once the implant has been placed. Your Dentist or Prosthodontist may provide you with a temporary tooth replacement to be worn during the healing period.
Your Periodontist will see you two weeks after your dental implant is placed. They will check the healing of the area and may remove any remaining sutures.
Your dental implant will then be left to heal for approximately three months. In cases where the dental implant is covered by gum during the healing period, a second, simple surgical procedure will be needed to uncover the implant.
During the three month healing period, the titanium implant and surrounding bone will bond to each other in a process referred to as ‘osseointegration’. It is important that the implant is firmly attached to the bone before it is subjected to biting pressures. Your Periodontist will check your implant at three months after placement to ensure that it has bonded to the surrounding bone. The dental implant will then be ready for restoration by your Dentist or Prosthodontist with either a crown, bridge or denture.
How are Dental Implants Restored?
Your Periodontist will carry out the surgical procedure required to place your dental implant. They will also work closely with your Dentist or Prosthodonist, who will make the prosthesis (artificial tooth or teeth) to restore your dental implant. Your Dentist or Prosthodontist will take an impression that will be used to construct a custom-made crown, bridge or denture to replace your missing tooth or teeth.
Caring for Your Dental Implant
As with your natural teeth, dental implants require good oral home care and regular professional maintenance care to ensure that they remain healthy. It is important to understand that gum disease can also develop around dental implants if they are not carefully maintained.
You will be shown special techniques for cleaning around your dental implant. This will include both brushing and flossing to remove the dental plaque that constantly forms around your implant.
An individually tailored implant maintenance program will be recommended to maximise the long-term success of your dental implant. This will involve checking the health of your gums around the dental implant, reviewing oral home care, cleaning around the implant and also checking the implant restoration (crown, bridge or denture). X-rays may also be taken to assess the bone supporting your dental implant.
It is important to realise that not everyone is suitable for dental implants. Your Periodontist will carry out a full assessment to determine whether dental implants are the best option to replace your missing teeth.