A dental implant is a titanium screw that can replace the root of a tooth after it has been extracted. When the titanium screw is placed in the jaw, the bone then grows around the implant holding it in place.
When deciding whether a dental implant is the most suitable form of replacement for your teeth, your clinician will go through all of the possible options for your mouth in making the best decision for you.
Are implants safe and how long will they last?
Implants are a safe and well-established form of treatment. Implants are a long term solution to restoring an area in your mouth where teeth have been lost. It is important that you look after your implants with good oral hygiene.
Regular maintenance appointments with the hygienist 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 what you get on neglected natural teeth. Left untreated, this can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort.
If your implants are well looked after, and if the bone around the implant 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.
I have some of my own teeth. Can I still have implants?
Yes. You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants – from one single tooth to a complete set. Not every tooth that is extracted will have to be replaced so speak to your clinician for your specific treatment needs
Can implants always be used to replace missing teeth?
It depends on the condition of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist 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. We will also assess your medical condition and whether you have existing gum disease. It is important that we consider all aspects of your general health and teeth to find out the best solution for you.
Is the treatment uncomfortable?
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 you may feel some discomfort during the week after the surgery.
How long does the treatment take?
Your dental team will be able to give you a rough timetable before the treatment starts.
Usually, the false teeth are fitted 3 to 4 months after the implants are put in. Sometimes treatment takes longer and your dental team will be able to talk to you about your treatment time.
What about aftercare?
Your dental team will give you instructions on how to look after your implant. You will require to keep some painkillers to take over the next few days if you need them. If you are worried about anything at all, you can telephone the surgery. Out of surgery hours there is an on-call emergency number.
What happens next?
After your implants have been placed, the bone in your jaw needs to grow onto them and fuse to them. This usually takes three to four months. If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you may have a temporary bridge or denture in the meantime. If you already have full dentures, you may be able to 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.
Are the implant teeth difficult to clean?
The implant are not difficult to clean. But aftercare is important if you are going to have a long-lasting, successful implant. Your dental team 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 how to clean them. You may need to visit your hygienist more often but your dental team will be able to talk to you about this.
If I had gum disease when I had my own teeth, will I get it with the implants?
If you have experienced gum disease in the past, it makes you more susceptible to having similar gum problems with dental implants. If you keep them clean and have them regularly checked by your dental team you should not have any problems. Smoking also affects the health of implants. So, if you smoke, you may need to look after your implants more carefully. Some dentists will not place dental implants in people who are smokers.
Can I take the teeth out if they are fixed to implants?
Most teeth attached to implants can only be fitted and removed by the dentist. However, if you have removable dentures attached to the implants, you’ll be able to take them out for cleaning.
What do the implants look like?
Most implants look exactly like natural teeth. Whether you are having crown or dentures fitted to your implants, the teeth will be carefully colour matched. The prosthesis will then be carefully constructed to take into account the shape of the neighboring teeth so that you have the best aesthetics.
Do I have an implant for each missing tooth?
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, if you have two or more implants, they may be able to support more than one tooth each. Your dentist will talk to you about the best option for you.
What if I have an accident?
Implants and the teeth they support can be damaged by an accident in the same way that natural teeth can. So it is important that you wear a professionally made mouthguard if you play sports that involve contact or moving objects. If just the teeth are damaged, they can usually be removed from the implant and replaced.
However, if the titanium implant itself is damaged beyond repair, it can be safely left in the jaw if it is too difficult to remove. After careful assessment, another implant may be fitted alongside it to replace the damaged one.
What happens if the implant does not fuse with the bone?
This happens very rarely because the patients are selected very carefully for this procedure. If the implant becomes loose during the healing period, or just after, it is easily removed and your jaw will heal in the normal way. Once your jaw has healed, another implant can be placed there or your dentist will have to discuss alternative forms of treatment with you.