Dental Implants

Dental Implants

What are dental implants?

Dental implants are a long-term solution for missing teeth, and they essentially replace the root of your missing tooth. Almost all dental implants in use today are made from titanium or titanium alloy, materials that have been shown over many years to be well tolerated by bone. Dental implants are placed directly into your jaw bone with minor surgery. After a period of healing, the bone surrounding the implant will gradually fuse to the implant surface which secures the implant in place, a process known as osseointegration. Once the implant is secure, it can be used to support replacement teeth.

How many teeth can be supported by implants?

Crowns can be used to replace single teeth and bridges replace multiple teeth. If you are missing just one natural tooth, then one implant is normally all that will be needed to provide a replacement. Larger spaces created by two, three or more missing teeth do not necessarily need one implant per tooth, however the exact number of implants will depend upon the quality and volume of bone at each potential implant site.

Bone density in the upper jaw is generally poorer than in the lower jaw. If you have no teeth at all, and want to replace your teeth with dental implants, you would likely need a minimum of 6 implants in the upper jaw. In the lower jaw, the bone towards the front of the mouth is often very strong and as a direct result, fewer implants may be needed than are required to treat a whole upper jaw.

Fixed implant crown/bridges

Regardless of the number of teeth being replaced, the restorations can either be screw retained to the dental implant or cemented (glued) on top of a post screwed directly to the implant. It is usually preferable to have screw retained options as these allow easier repair and replacement. However, the amount of bone may make screw retained options more challenging. Cement retained solutions can be an alternative option where more flexibility is required with the implant position. Regardless of how the restorations are fixed it is very important you are able to clean around the bridge/crowns as you will be unable to remove them.

Implant supported dentures

Where you are already missing many natural teeth, an alternative option may be to consider a removable denture attached to dental implants. This is known as an overdenture. The denture is held in place with ‘press-stud’ like attachments which connect to the dental implants. The advantage of an overdenture is that it can replace multiple teeth but with less implants required than a fixed bridge. The surgery required is therefore more straight forward and is less likely to require complex bone grafting. The denture is able to replace lost gum height more easily than a fixed bridge.

Like conventional dentures, they need to be removed at night and the dental implants need to be cleaned like they were your natural teeth. There will be some minimal movement of the denture whilst chewing as it is also supported by your gums, however, this will be significantly less than a conventional denture.

What are the advantages of dental implants?

Dental implants are often chosen as they are a more permanent solution than removable dentures. They also don’t damage any of your adjacent teeth which is in the case of a bridge. As long as you care for your implant properly, they can last as long as your natural teeth. On average dentures last about 5- 10 years as your mouth changes shape with time, so they become less comfortable.

What are the alternatives to dental implants?

A dental implant is just one way to replace a missing tooth. The alternative options are

  • A bridge – a fixed solution where the false tooth is attached to the next door tooth. This often requires some level of destruction of the tooth the bridge is attached to.
  • A denture – false teeth that are attached to either a plastic or metal framework. These are removable so you will be aware of some movement of this in your mouth. They can replace multiple teeth at once. Dentures are commonly the most affordable option for replacing teeth.

Dental implants are not an appropriate option for everybody. This can be due to several factors including which teeth are missing and the condition of any remaining teeth and your gums. People may opt to have bridges or dentures because it is a less complicated procedure.

Can anyone have dental implants?

Dental implants are suitable for most adults who have good general health and have healthy gums. Implants are not suitable for children and young people under the age of 18 because the underlying bone is still growing. There are some other factors that may increase the risk of implant failure, which are listed below;

  • Smoking
  • Gum disease
  • Previous radiotherapy to your jawbone
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Other dental disease requiring treatment such as dental decay

Having these factors does not preclude you being able to have dental implants, but it may increase your risk of the implants failing. Your implant dentist will be able to advise you of your specific risks.

Who should I get to place my dental implants?

There is no such thing as an implant specialism, however, it is important that the dentist placing your implants has had an adequate amount of training. In the UK, implants can be placed by a wide range of dentists including general dentists and specialists. Regardless of who places them, the dentist should have undergone further training to allow them to place dental implants. Specialists will have undergone formal clinical training and examinations which allow them to be a registered specialist with the General Dental Council, whereas general dentists will not have done as much training. You may wish to get more than one opinion on your treatment options before making a decision. We at Church View Dental Care have a restorative specialist who works with us. Dr James Chesterman has undergone formal training as discussed above.

How much do dental implants cost?

The cost of treatment will depend on a few factors including the number of implants placed and the complexity of treatment. The fees may also relate to the level of experience and training the implant dentist has. Following an initial consultation, the implant dentist will be able to provide you with a detailed cost estimate for your treatment. As with all dental treatment, there will be an on-going cost to maintain your implants. It is also important to note that although dental implants may appear an expensive option, they are a long term solution and their benefits are likely to last longer than alternative treatments.

Stages of dental implant treatment

  • Initial consultation – a full examination will be undertaken to include xrays of your teeth and bone. If implants are deemed appropriate, a 3D scan of the area will be taken to assess the quality and amount of bone present. If there is inadequate bone, sometimes a bone graft will also be required.
  • If you need to have a tooth removed, this needs to be done before the implant is placed and allowed to heal for a few weeks. If you are concerned cosmetically, a temporary bridge or denture can be made to replace the tooth.
  • Implant placement is done under local anaesthetic in a 60-90 minute appointment. The implants are left to fuse to the bone for approximately 8-12 weeks. Once the implants have fully healed, they can be used to support the crown, bridge or denture.

Are dental implants painful to have placed?

Implants are placed under local anaesthetic which numbs the mouth so you shouldn’t have any pain whilst the implant is being placed. After your surgery, it is likely you will experience some degree of pain, bruising and swelling which is normal. This usually subsides 7 days after the surgery. You will be able to go to work the day after the procedure. Your pain should be manageable with over the counter pain relief, but if you are concerned that your pain is abnormal, you should contact your dentist.

Why have I been told I need a bone graft?

Dental implants rely upon having enough quality bone present. If there is not enough bone, in some situations a bone graft may be required. Your implant dentist will be able to guide you through this process if required. In some situations, implants are not possible if you do not have enough bone.