A dental implant is a titanium screw that can be used to replace the root of a missing tooth. The implant becomes firmly attached to your jawbone in a process called osseointegration. Once this has occurred the implant provides the foundation for a crown, bridge or denture.
All dentists now agree that dental implants provide the best long term replacement for any missing or failing teeth. From a patient perspective dental implants can provide:
Every case is different so this will be decided once your mouth has been examined. If you are missing just one tooth only one implant is usually needed. Larger spaces created by more than one missing tooth do not necessarily need one implant per missing tooth. To stabilise loose dentures we normally recommend between two and four implants. Other factors which are also important are the quantity and quality of your jawbone in the areas where the teeth are missing.
To help with planning the position of the future implant(s) impressions are normally taken to create moulds of your teeth. These moulds are then scanned onto a computer and merged with a 3D x-ray of your teeth and jaws. This information is then used to plan the position of your implants digitally. This data is then exported to Germany to construct a guide custom made to your mouth, to ensure your implants are placed with the highest level of precision.
Some people to not have enough bone in which to place an implant and hence may need a bone graft. The bone may be taken from various places in your body such as other parts of your jaw, or very rarely your hip. Most of the time it is possible to use a bone substitute or a combination of your natural bone with a bone substitute. Bone grafts are normally left to knit together for 3-6 months before implant placement. However, occasionally bone grafts can be carried out at the same time as implant placement.
Implants are usually placed using local anaesthetic only, with some of our patients falling asleep during treatment. The digitally designed templates used to ensure precise implant positioning also reduce the length of time for the procedure, which in turn minimises any discomfort after the procedure. If many implants are to be placed then the use of sedation may be suggested. You will be given a sedative through a vein in your arm or hand. During treatment under sedation you will remain conscious but will remember very little at the end of treatment.
Following implant placement you will normally have to wait while your bone grows around the implant to ensure it is firmly attached to your jaw. This usually takes two to three months but can take longer in more complex cases. During this period you will have a temporary replacement for your teeth.
It is important to be in good general health when undergoing treatment with dental implants. Heavy drinking or smoking can increase the number of problems during initial healing and in the long term can adversely affect the health of the gum and bone surrounding each implant. It is also important to get rid of any gum disease around natural teeth before starting any implant treatment.
During and following implant treatment it is essential to maintain a good level of oral hygiene and continue with your regular dental examinations. Often dental floss and other types of toothbrushes are required to maintain dental implants.
How you look after the implants and how frequently you have dental examination/hygienist appointments has a great influence on how long they last.
Poorly cared for implants develop a covering of calculus and plaque which is very similar to that found on neglected natural teeth. Untreated, these deposits can lead to gum infection, soreness and occasionally loss of implants.
Well looked after implants placed into adequate bone can be expected to last for many years. However, just as you would expect conventional crowns, bridges and fillings to need occasional repairs or replacements during their lifetime, your implant supported teeth also have similar requirements. In general, implant supported dentures require more maintenance than fixed implant teeth.
Yes, although average failure rates are below 5%. Failure can occur early on during treatment when the implant just does not attach to the bone. Later failure normally occurs due to poor oral hygiene or overloading of the implant.
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