What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial replacement for a tooth root.
The main aim during the placement of any implant is to achieve immediate close contact with the surrounding bone. Over time further growth of bone onto the implant surface enhances the stability of the implant.
In order to support replacement teeth, dental implants normally have some form of internal screw thread or post space that allows a variety of components to be fitted. Once fitted, these components provide the foundation for long-term support of crowns, bridges or dentures.
Dental implants are suitable for most adults with good general health. Habits such as heavy drinking or smoking can increase the problems associated with initial healing and thereafter may be bad for the long term health of gum and bone surrounding each implant. Some dentists may decline to place implants if smoking cannot be reduced or given up altogether.
How will you know if you are suitable for implants?
At your initial consultation the dentist will assess the feasibility of providing implant treatment. You will be expected to answer detailed questions concerning your medical history and there will be a complete examination of your mouth and remaining teeth with x-rays to discover the nature and extent of any current dental problems. The x-rays allow the dentists to determine the the optimal position of an implant, how many implants can be placed in the gap and the quality and volume of bone that is available.
How long do implants last?
Once the implants and surrounding soft tissues are seen to be healthy and the new teeth comfortable and correctly adjusted, it is the quality of your personal attention to oral hygiene and willingness to attend regular maintenance reviews that will have most influence on how long they will last. It could probably be said that implants will last as long as natural teeth.
Well maintained implants placed into adequate bone can be expected to last many years and possibly for your lifetime. However, just as you would expect conventional crowns, bridges and fillings to need occasional repairs and replacements, your implant-supported teeth may also have similar maintenance requirements over the years.
How many teeth can be supported by implants?
Dental implants can be used to replace one or several missing teeth. All the common forms of tooth replacement, such as bridges or dentures can be supported by dental implants.
If you are missing just one natural tooth, then one implant is normally all that will be needed to provide a replacement. However, larger spaces created by missing two or three or even more missing teeth do not necessarily need one implant per tooth; the exact number of implants will depend upon the quality and volume of bone at each potential implant site.
How long does the treatment take?
For routine cases, from the time of implant placement to the time of placing the first tooth/teeth, treatment times can vary between six weeks and six months. The availability of better quality bone can be used to decrease treatment time. With poorer quality bone more time and care must be taken which can therefore increase the treatment time beyond 6 months.
What should you know before you start treatment?
After your consultation, a comprehensive treatment plan will be provided of what was discussed with the dentist, with all your individual treatment options and with all the associated costs, risks and alternative treatments of course.
How does the treatment look like? How many visits will you need?
Implant treatments normally involve several stages that take place over a period of time from 3 to 9 months. Although these stages may vary depending on your individual needs, they usually include:
* Assessment and treatment planning:
An initial consultation, a full discussion of all treatment options, alternative treatments and assessment of feasibility. A written treatment plan is formulated detailing the sequence of treatment and associated costs.
* Implant placement:
Implant placement is a relatively simple minor surgical procedure that can be performed under sterile conditions in a dental surgery. The treatment is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation if required. If, during assessment, the underlying bone is deemed deficient, a number of options are available for bone regeneration. Bone regeneration is carried out prior to or at the same time as implant placement depending on requirements.
* Integration period:
Implants can take from six weeks to six months to fuse with the patient’s bone. During this integration period, temporary dentures or bridgework can be worn as appropriate. In some cases, temporary teeth can be fixed to the implants while they integrate in a process known as “immediate loading”.
* The restorative phase:
Once integrated, the implants can be brought into function with a variety of new teeth options (definitive restorations) ranging from a single crown, small or large bridge or a removable overdenture. A dental technician who works closely with the dentist constructs these definitive restorations.
Following completion of implant treatment, the patient must regularly and thoroughly clean the new teeth (restorations) as instructed by their dentist. A dental hygienist may also advise on care and maintenance of the restorations and natural teeth. Regular visits to the dentist are essential so that the health of the soft tissue, bone levels and the integrity of the restoration can be reviewed.
Frequently asked questions:
Will I be able to eat what I like afterwards?
Once completed, patients should be able to eat normal, healthy diet with little or no difficulty.
What costs are involved in implant treatments?
The cost may vary , depending on the degree and extent of treatment required. the full cost is therefore explained and confirmed in a written treatment plan from your implant dentist.
How long will it take?
Implant treatment usually requires a number of appointments over a period of months. In some cases, however, implants work can be completed in a much shorter period.
Am I too old for implant treatment?
There is no upper age limit for patients to undergo implant treatment, provided they continue to enjoy reasonable good health.
Is the treatment painful?
Patients are often surprised at how little discomfort they experience during and after implant procedures.