Your teeth support the structure of your face, so losing teeth can cause your skin to sag and your cheeks to appear hollow, adding years to your appearance. Having missing teeth can also make people feel very self-conscious, and the old-fashioned solution of wearing dentures can make you feel old before your time. As such, dental implants are a fantastic long-term solution for replacing missing teeth. They can remove the pain and discomfort of dentures and give you a new, beautiful smile. Dental implants are effectively replacement roots for your missing teeth. They are made of titanium and are fixed into the bone of your lower or upper jaw to provide an anchor for the new replacement tooth. Dental implants are very strong and durable, so they can last a lifetime if properly looked after.
Anyone who has missing teeth could be a candidate for dental implants. Even if you have been told you do not have enough bone to anchor the implant it is worth consulting with a highly trained practitioner who may still be able to treat you. Generally, the ideal candidate for dental implants is someone with one or more missing teeth who has healthy gums and enough bone to support the implant. If you are not suitable for the procedure, then alternatives include partial or full dentures or bridges. Dental implants are not suitable for children or young adults whose jawbones have not fully developed. They are also not recommended for heavy smokers or people who abuse drugs and alcohol as this can hinder healing in the mouth. People who have lost bone in their jaw because of periodontal disease or those with chronic diseases like diabetes or haemophilia may also not be suitable. The best way to discover if the procedure is right for you is to consult with a dentist who focuses on dental implants who will be able to go through your dental and medical history and determine whether or not the treatment is appropriate.
Although the procedure itself can be quite uncomfortable, dental implants are incredibly safe. However, as with any invasive procedure there are some risks involved. The biggest risk associated with dental implants is that they may not integrate properly with the jawbone or surrounding teeth and will therefore be uncomfortable and not work properly. In rare situations they can also become loose or fall out. Both of these complications can be managed by revisiting your dentist and do not cause permanent harm. As with any type of surgery there is also a risk of infection. In some cases, the gums can become inflamed and in other extremely rare cases, implants can cause damage to the nerved in the jaw.
Having dental implants can be quite a lengthy and uncomfortable process, especially when multiple teeth are being replaced. It can take months for the treatment to be fully completed and you will need to visit your dentist for a number of appointments.
The first stage of the treatment is to put the titanium ‘roots’ in place. Your dentist will use a local anaesthetic and, in some cases, sedation, during the procedure to try and make it as pain-free as possible. They will then make an incision in your gum to expose the jawbone where the implant will be placed. A special drill is then used to make a hole for the titanium fixture to sit in. Once the implant root is in place the gums are stitched back up. You will then need to wait between three and six months for the bone to heal around and bond to the implant. During this time your dentist may fit you with temporary restorations such as a bridge or dentures.
Once the tissue has healed around the implant your replacement teeth can be fixed into place. You will once again need to have a local anaesthetic or sedation while your dentist makes another incision into your gum to expose the implant fixture. Your new restorations can then be fitted. In some cases, the dentist will use a crown to replace a single tooth. This can be made so that it matches the colour and shape of your existing teeth. When more teeth are missing the implants may be used to support bridges. This is similar to a normal dental bridge, expect for the fact that the bridge is anchored to the implant instead of other teeth.