Dental Implants – What Are They?


Dental implants are used by dentists to replace a tooth or group of teeth so that your smile can look complete, bright and clean where teeth or groups of teeth are missing. Dental implants can support various dental prostheses which include crowns, bridges or dentures. They can also sometimes be used as anchorage for orthodontic tooth movement. Typically a dental implant will consist of a screw which resembles a tooth root which is implanted directly into the jaw bone. The majority of dental implants are made from titanium. On top of this is placed a crown, if there is just one tooth missing or a bridge or denture if there are several teeth missing.

Most dental implants used today have a similar shape to an actual tooth root and are placed into the bone. Dental implants fuse with the bone in your jaw so they become the strongest mounting for your new smile. An implant is the closest thing you can get to growing a new tooth. It can look and feel like the real thing. Dental implants will require the bone to be prepared, normally by using a precision drill to accept the implant. After some time, which will vary from patient to patient, the bone will grow onto the surface of the implant so that it becomes almost a natural part of your mouth and jaw. If you are having a crown, bridge or even dentures, these are placed on the implant to create a secure mounting after a suitable healing period-typically 2-3 months.

There must be enough bone in the jaw for the implant to be successful and the bone has to be strong enough to hold and support the implant. There may be cases where there is not enough bone to successfully hold the dental implant and in some cases a bone graft may be required. Having a tooth or teeth missing is a cause as once you have lost the teeth, the bone begins to shrink as there is nothing there to support. Smokers and people who have had gum disease will often have this problem but there are other reasons why the bone might be insufficient.

There are many considerations when thinking of this type of restorative treatment not least why the teeth that were originally there have gone missing. People that are teeth grinders (there are many people who do this, sometimes when they are asleep even), for example, are not always good candidates for this type of procedure as the movement of grinding can move against the normal directional forces of eating, for example, and can start to damage the implant. This can often be overcome by wearing a night time bite guard to protect your teeth and implants. There are, however, many reasons why you would want this type of dental treatment, not least the way it makes you look and feel. I’m sure that you have seen people that wear dentures and how ‘caved in’ their face can appear. This is because your teeth provide a structure for your face and a full set of teeth can in fact make you look younger which in turn can boost your confidence. Having a great smile can make you feel better about yourself and if looked after correctly by regular visits to the dentist, brushing correctly and flossing, you can expect your new teeth to last many, many years.

Are there failures?

Yes sometimes, although fortunately these are rare, typically there is a 95-97% success rate. Smokers are advised to stop for a few weeks before and after implant placement as smoking can affect the healing and knitting of the bone with the implant. It’s also possible that some time after the treatment, problems may occur. This can often be put down to the change in the bite of the wearer or a lack of dental hygiene.

However for many people dental implant treatment is life-changing. Just being able to eat normally and enjoy your food is a huge benefit for many implant patients. A new smile can increase your confidence, make your look face look younger. Implants can provide you with new teeth to last for many years. That’s certainly something to smile about and your dentist is there to help.



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