A dental implant is used to support one or more false teeth. It is a titanium screw that can replace the root of a tooth when it fails. Just like a tooth root, it is placed into the jawbone.
Implants are a safe, well-established, tried-and-tested treatment. It’s probably true to say that implants, much like natural teeth, will last for as long as you care for them.
How well you look after your implants – and whether you go for your regular maintenance appointments – will have the biggest impact on how long they will last.
If you don’t look after your implants they will develop a coating similar to that found on neglected natural teeth. Left untreated, this can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort. You could get all these problems with natural teeth.
If your implants are well looked after, and if the bone they are fitted to is strong and healthy, you can expect them to last for many years. However, just as with other surgical implants (such as a hip replacement) there is no lifetime guarantee
It depends on the condition of the bone in your jaw. We will arrange for a number of special tests to find out the amount of bone still there. If there is not enough, or if it isn’t healthy enough, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area first.
Placing an implant is often easier than taking a tooth out and is usually done using a simple local anaesthetic. You will not feel any pain at the time, but just like after an extraction, you may feel some discomfort during the week after the surgery.
Sometimes you may need a sedative if you are very nervous or if the case is a complicated one. General anaesthetics are rarely used for implants and are generally only used for very complicated case.
Usually the permanent false teeth are fitted 3 to 4 months after the implants are put in. Some teeth can now even be fitted at the same time as the implants (these are called ‘immediate implants’) but your dentist will have to see whether these are suitable for you. Sometimes treatment takes longer and your dentist will be able to talk to you about your treatment time.
After your implants have been placed, the bone in your jaw needs to grow onto them and fuse to them. This usually takes a few months. Sometimes the implants may be stable enough when they are fitted for the false teeth to be attached sooner than this.
If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you may have a temporary denture in the meantime. If you have full dentures, you can keep wearing these while your implants are healing. Your dentures will need altering, to fit properly after the surgery, and a ‘healing cap’ will usually be placed onto the implant site to protect it.
Aftercare is important if you are going to have a long-lasting, successful implant. Your dentist should give you detailed advice on how to look after your implants. Cleaning around the teeth attached to the implants is no more difficult than cleaning natural teeth. However, there may be areas that are difficult to reach and you’ll be shown methods to help you.
If you don’t care for the implants well enough, they will get diseased. If you keep them clean and have them regularly checked by your dentist you should not have any problems. Smoking also affects the health of natural teeth and implants. So, if you smoke, you may need to look after your implants more carefully.
If you have a single tooth missing, you will need an implant to support it. If you have a number of teeth missing, and these are next to each other, you could still have one implant for each tooth. Or you may find that two or more implants may be able to support more than one tooth each. Your dentist will talk to you about the best option for you.