Dental Implants - Are They Right For me?
What are they?
Dental implants are, effectively, replacement tooth roots made from titanium. They are ‘screwed’ into the bone and provide a strong foundation for permanent or removable replacement teeth.
What are the advantages of having an implant instead of a simple bridge or a denture?
1. The fit of even the best denture will worsen with time, leading to looseness, embarrassment and irritation. To a degree, some people subconsciously compensate for this and aren’t immediately aware of the deterioration – but it’s true to say that dentures are never as good as your own teeth.
Conversely, implants fuse biologically with the bone; they become part of you and, if done well and looked after properly, they can last a lifetime.
2. Dental implants don't require other teeth to be reduced, as a bridge does. Because nearby teeth are not altered to support the implant, more of your own teeth are left intact, improving your long-term oral health. Individual implants also allow easier access between teeth to clean them.
Are implants suitable for me?
You must have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. You must also be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders – such as diabetes or heart disease – or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis. If you come into one of these categories and you are considering implants, talk to your dentist to see if they are right for you.
Following a thorough assessment and treatment planning, the implant (a small titanium screw) is placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. This is done under local anaesthesia and is painless. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw. The healing process takes about 12 weeks.
Once the implant has bonded to the jawbone, the new tooth or teeth can be attached to it. To make your new tooth or teeth, we will take impressions (moulds) which we will send to the laboratory. There they will cast models from the impressions and make the replacement tooth or teeth. In most cases, the replacements will be individual crowns or bridges which will be permanently attached to the implant(s). Sometimes, if all or most of your teeth are missing, it will be better to place precision attachments on the implants to support and retain a removable denture.
The replacement tooth or teeth will be fitted at a subsequent appointment. Because the implant is secured within the jawbone, the replacement will look, feel, and function just like your own natural teeth.
Is it Painful?
The area is numbed with local anaesthetic so there should be no discomfort during the procedure. It will be sore for a day or so afterwards but this will be easily controlled with over-the-counter painkillers such as you might take for a headache. In fact, most patients report that the post-operative discomfort was a lot less than that following a tooth extraction.
Dental implants require the same care as real teeth, including brushing, flossing, and regular dental check-ups.
Tom Nolan is a dentist with over 30 years’ experience.
If you found this article useful, you should check out his book
Also available as a download. This book is packed with practical advice and will tell you everything you need to know to keep your mouth healthy, trouble-free and beautiful for the rest of your life.
You can get in touch via Tom's practice: The Dentist in Town.