Dental implants are a fixed solution to missing teeth. The finished result is natural and long-lasting, and feels just like a normal tooth. While there are other procedures to replace missing teeth, dental implants can create a smile that is very natural and extremely durable. It’s almost impossible to distinguish the implant from your existing teeth.
What’s an implant?
An implant is a manufactured replacement for the root of a tooth. Usually made of titanium and looking a little like a screw, the implant is surgically positioned in the jaw bone. A crown is then attached to the top of the implant to fill the gap of the missing tooth.
How is an implant fitted?
A series of scans are taken by your dentist to aid in positioning the implant and to ensure you have plenty of healthy bone structure. If the bone is diseased or missing, there is still a possibility of a bone graft in order to make an implant viable.
The titanium implant is surgically placed in the bone of your jaw where a tooth once was. It is then left for between two and six months so the bone can grow around the implant. During this time you may wear a temporary crown.
Once the implant is securely fused to the bone, the temporary crown is removed and a permanent crown is either cemented or screwed into place.
If you are missing all of your teeth and wear a full denture, it is still possible to use dental implants to restore your smile. A full arch of natural-looking teeth can be held in place on as little as four implants. These fit snugly to help make it feel comfortable and eliminate the need for daily removal and cleaning.
What are the advantages of an implant?
Implants create the most natural and life-like solution to a missing tooth. The result is virtually indistinguishable from your other teeth and in a very short space of time, it will likely feel completely normal.
Other solutions for replacing missing teeth – either a bridge or dentures – are not as long-lasting or natural-looking. Implants allow you to eat, speak and maintain an oral health regimen as if you had never lost a tooth in the first place.
Am I a suitable candidate for implants?
The only requirements to have a dental implant fitted is that you are in good health, possess a healthy jawbone and have no gum disease. The success rate of dental implants is very high.
A factor that can impact on the success of the procedure is the presence of gum disease or tooth decay. These need to be fully treated before even thinking about implants. Smoking needs to be stopped well before treatment and ideally after the implants are fitted. Smoking reduces healing capacity and can cause complications at the integration point of the implant, not to mention its other effects on general health.
Some medical conditions and the medication required to treat them can also have an adverse effect on implants. These include diabetes, cancer and gastric reflux.
It’s important to fully discuss your medical history with your dentist in the planning stages of the implant procedure.
Maintaining dental implants
One of the biggest advantages of dental implants is that they require no special after-care; simply brush, floss and visit your dentist as normal. Good oral hygiene, healthy gums and a twice yearly check-up are your implant’s best friends.
Crown and bridge care
Once your crown or bridge is fitted, it’s important to maintain a regular and effective routine of oral hygiene. Brush and floss two to three times a day, taking extra care to floss around your crown. This will help avoid decay where the crown and the tooth join. Avoid sticky foods such as toffee and lollies, and do not use your teeth inappropriately – chewing pens, crunching ice, gnawing fingernails, etc.
A dental floss threader, which looks like a small bendy brush, can be used to clean under your bridge. There are also water jets on the market that will help keep your bridge clean.
Whether you have a crown or a bridge, the most important thing is to regularly visit your dentist for a checkup and clean. This way problems can be detected early, allowing them to be corrected before they become painful and expensive.
How long do implants last?
With proper oral hygiene, you can expect dental implants to last around 20 years. However, it’s entirely possible for them to last a lifetime.