Frequently Asked Questions - Dental Implant

What is the dental implant procedure?

This can be performed as a single, ‘one off’ procedure (immediate loading) or as a two stage process.

The treatment itself can last from 6 weeks through to 6 months or more. It is usually carried out under a local anaesthetic although a general anaesthetic is preferred when bone grafting is required.

If you are having an Endosteal (Root Form) implant then the treatment is as follows:

  1. An initial consultation: this will involve a discussion between you and the dentist to assess your suitability for this treatment. He or she will take an x-ray and in some cases, a CT scan. These are used to assess the condition of your teeth and your jaw.

    The dentist will also take an ‘impression’ of your jaw. This impression is a wax model of your teeth and jaw which is used to help with the positioning of the implant. It can also help with the creation of the replacement teeth, or a bridge.

    The dentist will then draw up a written report which outlines the treatment process and the cost.

  2. The implant procedure: if you have decided to go ahead then the decision is whether to have a local anaesthetic, sedation or a general anaesthesia. If you need a bone graft then a general anaesthetic will be administered, especially if you are having an autogenous graft. This means taking bone from either your chin or hip and grafting this into your jawbone to increase its depth.

    If your dentist has advised you to have a bone graft then this can be done either before or during the implant treatment. There are four types of bone grafts – autogenous/autograft, allograft, alloplastic and xenografts.

    A bone graft can replace bone loss as a result of missing teeth, ageing and prolonged denture wear. If your jaw has experienced bone loss or ‘resorption’ then if left untreated, there is the danger of ‘shrinkage’ which can also impact upon your appearance.

    If you are looking at an implant in your upper jaw then you may require a sinus lift. This is where bone is grafted onto the jaw within the sinus area to increase its volume.

    If you have chosen a local anaesthetic then do not eat or drink 4 hours before surgery and arrange for someone to drive you home afterwards.

    If you are having a general anaesthesia then this will mean no food or drink at least 12 hours before surgery. This may also mean an overnight stay in hospital/clinic. Your dentist will advise you further about this.

    Once you have had the bone graft then the next step is the insertion of the implant. If this is to be done as an ‘all in one’ procedure or immediate loading, then it will be followed by the placing of the replacement teeth.

    There are advantages and disadvantages to this.

    The ‘two stage process’ is the preferred procedure. It will involve the insertion of an implant, followed by a second procedure in which the replacement teeth are attached to the implant.

    The dentist will make an incision within your gum to expose the jawbone. He or she will then drill a small hole within the jaw, ready of the implant. The implant can either be the screw or cylinder type and is inserted into the jaw.

    The incision is closed via a series of tiny stitches and allowed time to heal. This is usually a period of 3 months or more. The reason for this is to allow the implant to integrate with the jawbone.

    There are several brands of implants such as Straumann, Bicon and IMTEC.

    Another option is that of the ‘mini’ implant. These tended to be used as a temporary measure, before being replaced by the normal standard implants.

    They are often used in cases where the patient is in poor health, reluctant to have the full implant or to stabilise their dentures.

  3. Integration period: this is a period of time in which your jaw (and gum) is given time to heal. This can take from 3 months and during that time the aim is for the implant and jaw to fuse together. This is a natural process and one that it is usually successful.

    This period of time is known as ‘osseo-integration’.

    During this period you have the option of either wearing a temporary denture or a simple dental bridge.

  4. Replacement teeth: these are also known as restorations. In this second stage of the procedure, the dentist will open up the original incision. He or she will then fit a small collar onto the end of the implant called an ‘abutment’.

    This abutment allows the dentist to fit the replacement teeth to the implant.

    Depending on the treatment, you can have a single implant, a bridge or an overdenture. The implant procedure can form part of a larger body of work such as a crown and bridge restoration or a major reconstruction.

    The restorations are made by a specialist dental laboratory in co-operation with your dentist.

  5. Follow up/aftercare: this is the ‘post-implant’ period and one which requires you to attend regular check ups with your dentist. This is to monitor your progress and to see that the implant is functioning well. He or she will also check your bone levels and your gum health.

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