Losing a tooth or teeth has many effects. It makes eating more difficult and limits the foods you’re able to comfortably enjoy. For many people, the loss of confidence that arises from missing teeth is actually far worse than the diet limitations, it’s no surprise that there’s a long history of tooth replacement. The first dentures are thought to have been made around 7000 BC!
Dentistry has improved over the years, options have expanded and modern dentures and bridges look much more realistic than older styles. Dentures have their downsides however; bridges can cause damage to surrounding teeth and most denture wearers end up avoiding once favourite foods. These days, the gold standard of tooth replacement is undoubtedly dental implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are artificial teeth which are surgically placed into the jaw. They consist of a metal post or screw, made of Titanium which once implanted actually fuses with the jaw bone, and a replacement tooth or crown placed on top of it.
How do tooth implants work?
Because the post fuses with the bone, implants are extremely strong. It’s almost impossible to distinguish a good implant from a natural tooth, they look and feel just like the real thing and most people who’ve had them report that they’re able to eat all their favourite foods without problems.
What’s the procedure for a dental implant?
Before the implant, your dentist will assess the health of your gums and strength of your jaw bone. Healthy gums and adequate bone tissue are a must for the surgery to be successful. If you have active gum disease your dentist will advise on treatment. If your jaw bone isn’t dense enough to provide an adequate support for the post a bone transplant may be possible.
How long does the process take?
The full procedure from start to finish will take months and sometimes more than a year. The exact time will depend on several factors.Treating gum disease or waiting for a graft to take slows things down. Implants into the upper jaw generally take longer than those to the lower. In all cases, there will be a period of time after the post has been fitted before the permanent crown can be fixed. This is because chewing exerts more pressure on teeth than you might expect. Your dentist will examine the post and surrounding bone by x-ray to make sure that the post is sufficiently fused into the bone before fitting the crown.
Are dental implants painful?
Some kind of anesthetic either local or general will be used during the surgery itself. Afterwards, you may experience some local bruising, swelling or bleeding but if any of these persist or get worse you should contact your dental surgeon so they can make sure you don’t have an infection.
Is the procedure always successful?
Most dental implants work very well. On rare occasions, the post and bone don’t fuse. If this happens the post is removed and the bone cleaned. You can get the post replaced after a month or so, having dealt with any underlying issues which may have caused the problem.
How long do dental implants last?
Some patients have had their implants in place for 25 years! Obviously caring for the implants will make a difference. The steps required to do this are the same as those required to look after natural teeth – good daily oral hygiene and regular dental check-ups so that problems can be spotted at an early stage when they’re easily treated.