Frequently Asked Questions - Dental Implant

What is a dental implant?

Dental implants are an innovative form of dental treatment that look and feel exactly like natural teeth. They can be used to replace a single or several teeth, which are missing as a result of an accident, disease or injury.

They are an acceptable alternative to dentures as there is no risk of the implant moving around or becoming uncomfortable to wear. They are also a ‘permanent’ feature in that they do not require removing and cleaning every night!

They enjoy a high success rate and are chosen by countless number of patients who are looking for a good alternative to dentures, crowns and bridges.

If you would like to know more then read through some or all of these FAQs.

A dental implant is basically, an artificial ‘root’ that is inserted into your jaw and acts as an anchor for a replacement tooth.

A root is the bottom part of a tooth which secures the tooth to the jaw.

It takes the form of a thin metal screw or cylinder and is usually made of titanium or titanium alloy. This can be screwed or tapped into place. The aim is for it to fuse with the surrounding bone of the jaw in a process called ‘osseointegration’.

This usually takes around 3 to 6 months.

Once this has taken place your dentist will then fit a small external attachment called an ‘abutment’ to the implant. This enables him/her to attach a replacement tooth or ‘restoration’. This artificial tooth looks and behaves in exactly the same way as a natural tooth. You will not notice the difference between a restoration and a natural tooth.

Implants range from a single tooth to several teeth. If you have several teeth missing then there is the option of multiple dental implants or an ‘overdenture’.

An overdenture is the combination of a conventional denture with a couple of implants to act as a support.

Multiple implants can support a bridge as well as a denture.

There are several advantages to dental implants which are:

  • No slipping or moving around: this tends to be a common feature of denture wear. If you already wear dentures then you may have found that they can feel ‘loose’ or move around. Some patients find that dentures irritate their mouth or are just uncomfortable to wear.
  • Prevents bone loss and a shrunken facial appearance: if a tooth is lost and is not replaced then what happens is that the area of the jaw previously occupied by the tooth starts to shrink. If left untreated then this can result in a ‘drawn, sunken’ face which is also ageing.

This bone loss is known as ‘bone resorption’.

  • A good replacement for missing teeth or a bridge: they can stop the grinding down of normal, healthy teeth.
  • Improved appearance and self-confidence: you will feel confident about your enhanced appearance.

All you need to have implants are healthy gums and a strong jaw in order to support them. Your dentist will take an x-ray at your initial consultation to see how strong your jaw is. This is important as he or she needs to be certain that your jaw is deep enough to hold an implant in place.

If it isn’t then don’t worry: he or she can perform a ‘bone graft’ which will build up the thin area of your jaw so that it can hold an implant.
There are two types of dental implants:

  • Endosteal
  • Subperiosteal

Endosteal is the most common form of implant. These are implants which are directly inserted into your jawbone. They are inserted as part of a two stage process which involves the placing of the implant in the first stage, followed by the fixing of an abutment and then the replacement tooth itself.

This type of implant relies upon osseo-integration or the fusing of the implant to the jawbone.

This is more commonly known as a ‘Root Form’ implant.

Subperiosteal involves the placing of a metal framework onto the jawbone, just below the gums. This framework will attach itself to the jawbone as the gums heal.

The framework has a couple of metal posts which stick out through the gums. The dentist can then attach replacement teeth to these posts.

This is less popular than the endosteal type of implant.

On average, dental implants last for 10 to 20 years. This all depends on the location of the implant and the amount of care and attention they receive. Implants are looked after in the same way as natural teeth so regular cleaning and flossing is vital.

Implants in the front of the mouth tend to last longer than those at the back (molars).

One alternative is that of the ‘mini’ dental implant: these are a smaller (and cheaper) version of the standard implant. They are an option for those patients who do not have a deep enough jawbone. Your dentist can advise you further about these.

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