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Ask the Experts
A dental implant is an artificial replacement for a tooth root, usually made from titanium. When expertly used they deliver a highly reliable treatment. The main aim during the placement of any implant is to achieve immediate close contact with the surrounding bone. Over time further growth of bone onto the implant surface enhances the stability of the implant.
In order to support replacement teeth, dental implants normally have some form of internal screw thread or post space that allows a variety of components to be fitted. Once fitted, these components provide the foundation for long-term support of fixed crowns, bridges or removable dentures.
Who is suitable for Dental Implants?
Dental implants are suitable for most adults with good general health. They can only be used once the jawbone has stopped growing and so generally are not used with younger patients. Habits such as heavy drinking or smoking can increase the number of problems associated with initial healing and thereafter may be bad for the long-term health of gum and bone surrounding each implant. Smoking should be reduced or better still given up altogether. However, each case is different and if you do have any medical problems then speak to our online consultants prior to starting any treatment – it is only in some circumstances that health problems prevent the use of dental implants altogether.
Dental implants are suitable for most adults with good general health.
Benefits of Dental Implants
- They look completely natural and are unnoticeable to anyone else
- They are permanent as they fuse with your bone structure
- They feel 100% natural
- Unlike dentures, they will never slip not affect your speech
- Unlike bridges, dental implants do not require grinding down of adjacent teeth
An overview of the Implant Process
Implant treatment normally involves several stages that take place over a period of time from three to nine months. Although there are various implant treatment methods, a typical process often includes:
- Assessment and treatment planning – During your online consultation, following full discussion of all possible alternatives, we will assess the feasibility of providing implant treatment. You will be asked to send us recent X-rays and a written treatment plan will then be formulated detailing the sequence of treatment and associated costs.
- Implant placement – Implant placement is a relatively simple minor surgical procedure that can be performed under sterile conditions in a dental surgery. The treatment is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation if required. If, during assessment, the underlying bone is deemed deficient, a number of options are available for bone regeneration. Bone regeneration is usually carried out at the same time as implant placement depending on requirements.
- Integration period – Implants can take from three months to six months to fuse with the patient’s bone. During this integration period, temporary dentures or bridgework can be worn as appropriate. In rare cases, temporary teeth can be fixed to the implants while they integrate in a process known as ‘immediate loading’.
- The Restorative phase – Once integrated, the implants can be brought into function with a variety of new teeth options (definitive restorations) ranging from a single crown, small or large bridge or a removable overdenture.
- Maintenance – Following completion of implant treatment, the patient must regularly and thoroughly clean the new teeth (restorations) as instructed. A dental hygienist may also advise on care and maintenance of the restorations and natural teeth. Regular visits to a dentist are essential so that the health of the soft tissue, bone levels and the integrity of the restoration can be reviewed.
Most patients will be familiar with the dental anaesthetics used for routine dentistry and will know how effective they are. Implants are placed using the same anaesthesia. Depending upon the complexity of your case, the procedure might take anything from 20 minutes for a single implant, to several hours for complex bone augmentation and multiple implant placements. After surgery you can expect some minor swelling and occasionally bruising. For most patients, any of the over-the-counter/basic painkillers that you might take for a headache will be adequate for a few days. If you experience more discomfort than this, contact us so our dentists can prescribe a stronger medication.
Healing is generally straightforward and during the first few days you should report any unexpected levels of pain or swelling so that they can be assessed. If in doubt always ask for advice, as early detection of a problem will often lead to a simpler solution. You may also be asked to take a course of antibiotics and to follow some simple procedures such as rinsing with salt water or an antiseptic mouth rinse. It is important that you carry out these instructions.
Although it is quite straightforward to provide good pain control during surgery, most people will be quite anxious. There is no need to suffer in silence, as there are several very effective means by which you can achieve a relaxed state.
- Oral sedation – Another simple way to aid relaxation is to be given a dose of a short-acting medication such as Diazepam (normally used to help with sleep difficulties). This will reduce anxiety for most patients and provides a very good effect for uncomplicated surgical stages taking less than an hour.
- Conscious sedation – For treatment of greater complexity it may be suggested that you have a more controlled way of keeping you relaxed and comfortable during the surgical stages. This is known as a ‘conscious sedation’ and is distinctly different from a general anaesthetic because you remain alert enough to respond to simple instructions that may be helpful to the surgeon – however, you will remember almost nothing about the treatment stage. It is particularly beneficial for procedures taking more than an hour where a hospital admission is not required – this is probably true for the majority of treatments related to dental implants.
- General anaesthesia – General anaesthetics require a hospital admission and are mainly, but not exclusively, used for complex cases such as where bone is being grafted from the hip to the mouth, or where large numbers of implants are being placed at the same time. Most patients will not require a general anaesthetic since conscious sedation is much safer and has fewer post operative complications.
It is important that you maintain good oral hygiene with your implants to improve their life span. Cleaning your implants is not difficult. For most implant-supported teeth you will be able to clean around each supporting implant by brushing and flossing in just the same way that you would around natural teeth and tooth-supported bridges. In some areas special floss, interdental toothbrushes and other cleaning aids may be needed to maintain good oral hygiene.
It is reasonable to expect some of the daily hygiene procedures to be a little more complex than around your original teeth and equally expect to spend more time than you may have done in the past if you wish to maintain optimum implant health.