A simple guide to dental implants
Dental implants are placed into the jaw and gums to give support for false teeth. Implants are used to replace teeth which were developmentally missing or have been lost through disease or injury.
- A dental implant consists of a small titanium (or titanium alloy) screw which is placed in the jawbone and used to act as a firm foundation to support a tooth replacement such as a crown or a bridge.
- Dental implants bond to the jawbone using similar biological mechanisms as healing of fractures, which we call osseointegration.
- Implant treatment is a safe procedure that in many cases requires several stages of treatment carried out over a few months. In some cases, a provisional replacement tooth or teeth can be provided relatively quickly after starting the process.
- Good aftercare is essential for your implant or implants to provide you with a lifetime of service.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial replacement for tooth roots that that is used to support false teeth.
Implants look like screws or cylinders, and they are manufactured from titanium or other materials that can be safely inserted in the human body. They can be placed in the upper or lower jaws, where they attach to the bone and gum tissue and serve as a stable base for attachment of replacement teeth.
Dental implants are in most cases the gold standard of treatment for replacement of teeth which were developmentally missing or have been lost through disease or injury. A single implant can be used to support a single crown (prosthetic tooth), while a group of missing teeth can be replaced by a bridge which is supported by several implants.
If all the teeth in the jaw are missing, then about six implants can be used to support a complete set of replacement teeth, which may be fixed or semi-removable. Implants can also be used to make loose complete dentures more secure – in the lower jaw, just two dental implants can make a complete denture feel secure and comfortable and eliminate the use of adhesive.
Besides making it easier to chew food normally, a dental implant prosthesis can also restore fullness to a face that may appear otherwise sunken due to missing teeth. Unlike dentures, implant-supported prostheses don’t need adhesive.
How does the implant process work?
Dental implants can be used to replace a single tooth, several teeth, or even a complete set of teeth. The dentist will discuss with you the type and placement of the implant needed and create a treatment plan tailored to your specific condition.
The process of dental implant treatment has five main stages:
Before implant treatment, it is important that the rest of the mouth is healthy and any other existing dental problems should be correctly identified and treated. The planning begins with deciding where the replacement teeth will be placed in the mouth and how they will look. In the case of single missing teeth this can be quite obvious while when several teeth are missing, this can be helped by using mock-ups in the patient’s mouth or done digitally using computer models.
The bone volume is assessed using X-rays, usually using 3D imaging and the position of the dental implants planned in relation to the position of the replacement teeth. At this post, the treatment plan is finalised and we can produce an accurate estimate of costs.
The next stage is the surgical phase in which the implants are placed in the jawbone. In some cases, this can be helped using 3D printed guides. We use the Straumann implant system, a Swiss product with decades of research and quality assurance second to none.
Dental implant surgery is safe and painless, most patients will need to use painkillers for a couple of days after surgery and can carry on with most of their daily activities. If the bone or gum tissue is insufficient, in many cases this can be rebuilt at the same time as the implant surgery.
The established protocols in implant dentistry suggest that about three months of healing is needed from the time of implant placement to the time when work is done to produce the prosthetic tooth or teeth. However, in some cases we may offer “immediate” production of a temporary tooth or bridge enabling the patient to enjoy the benefit of their implants much sooner.
Production of prosthesis
In this stage moulds or 3D digital scans are made of the implant position in the mouth and are used to fabricate the artificial tooth/teeth which is/are fitted at the final appointment. We pride ourselves on using only original Straumann components and authorised production centres.
Follow-up and maintenance
Your implants will need to be cleaned daily and we will show you how best to do this. We will check your implant/s a few weeks after completion to ensure everything is working well, and then advise you on when you need to attend for professional cleaning and followup X-rays of the implants in the jawbone.
How long will an implant last?
With proper care, you can expect your dental implant to last for many years. Like your natural teeth, implants can also develop a coating of bacteria that leads to gum infection, bleeding and discomfort. This can be easily prevented with careful at-home care and regular appointments with a dental hygienist.
Cleaning implants isn’t any harder than cleaning natural teeth. Your dentist will show you how to clean difficult to reach areas and schedule follow-up visits to check on the health of your implant and surrounding structures.
Click on the links below to read more about periodontal disease and treatment.
- Dental implants (American Academy of Periodontology)
- What are dental implants? (Oral Health Foundation)
- Dental implants – An option for replacing missing teeth (PDF file; American Dental Association)
- Straumann Group