Dental implants

Dental implants have grown in popularity over the years and are seen as an attractive alternative to missing teeth. They are a successful form of treatment and often preferred to dentures or a bridge.

The advantages of an implant are: they hold false teeth securely in place, last for up to 10 years and are easier to manage than a bridge or dentures. In fact, an implant can be used as an anchor for a denture especially if they have a tendency to move around your mouth.

The disadvantages include: the cost (they can be expensive), a risk of failure (they do not work for everyone) and time (two procedures are required to fit an implant). Plus you may have insufficient bone density in your jaw which means a bone graft as well as the implant.

Most implants are fitted in a two stage process known as a ‘delayed implant’. But there are a few which are fitted straight away – which are known as an ‘immediate implant’.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a slim metal rod, made from titanium, which is inserted into your jawbone. It is an artificial version of a tooth root and acts as a support for a replacement tooth or ‘restoration’.

The implant fuses with the jawbone in a process known as ‘osseointegration’ which occurs over a period of time. Once it has been completed the implant is then ready to accept a replacement tooth.

A single implant can hold several replacement teeth. So if you have lost three or four teeth then consider having a dental implant.

Dental implant procedure

There are a few cases where a person has the implant and replacement tooth fitted in a single procedure. But most cases involve two stages.

The first stage involves the dentist making a small incision in the gum followed by the drilling of a hole in the jawbone. The implant is then inserted into the jawbone and the incision closed with stitches.

The implant slowly fuses with the jawbone over a period of several months.

Once your jaw has healed the second stage involves the fitting of a small device called an ‘abutment’ to the implant which acts as a connection point between this and the replacement tooth.

Basically, it enables the dentist to attach a crown or denture to the implant.

Caring for a dental implant

Dental implants must be cared for in the same way as the rest of your teeth. This is important for maximum longevity of the implant as well as being part of a good daily oral routine.

Your dentist will advise you about looking after your implant and the importance of regular check ups to check the condition of this and your replacement tooth.

Not everyone is suited to dental implant so if you are advised against an implant then consider having a dental bridge or dentures.