What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a titanium structure that is fixed directly into the jaw bone to replace a broken or decayed tooth. They are made from titanium because the strong metal fuses easily with human tissue, and it is less susceptible to bacterial infection. A rod is screwed through the gums into the jaw and when it is fully healed, a synthetic tooth is fixed to it, matching the colour and size of the remaining natural teeth. Dental implants are something of a revolution in the dental industry, they are solid, durable, and easy to take care of – you might say they’re the next best thing to a real tooth.
Why are dental implants necessary?
No one wants to imagine losing a tooth, but it’s comforting to know that there is a permanent alternative to dentures or dental bridges. Of all the things that can cause tooth loss, decay is probably the most common, closely followed by accidents and injuries. If you fail to properly clean your teeth on a regular basis, bacteria will start to build up and decay will begin to eat away at your teeth, eventually causing them to break apart and fall out. As long as the gum tissue is healthy and the jawbone is wide enough, a dental implant can replace the disintegrated tooth with a natural looking synthetic. Similarly, if you break a tooth in an accident, or knock it out completely, you don’t have to live with a gap in your smile, one dental implant can be fixed in your jaw to replace it, and no one will even notice the difference.
Leaving sockets empty might not seem like a big deal if you’re not bothered by their appearance, but they can have a detrimental effect on the rest of your teeth without you even realising it. Gaps and spaces mean the surrounding teeth are under more pressure when you chew, because the weight has to be evenly distributed across the remaining teeth, to make up for the missing one. This can cause the whole shape of the mouth to change, twisting teeth in their sockets and leading to orthodontic problems. Furthermore, it’s possible that your jaw bone will begin to collapse if it has no teeth sitting in it, this is evident in fairly severe cases, and can change the structure of the face dramatically, if left untreated. Replacing the missing teeth with an implant will not only make your smile look nicer, it will also keep it straighter and in better condition all round.
Dental implants have their other uses too, if your natural teeth are too weak or wobbly to hold a bridge in place securely, it could be advantageous to replace one or more of them with an implant, so that the other synthetic teeth have something solid to grip onto. Your dentist might chose to fit an implant next to a gap, rather than filing down a remaining tooth to use as an anchor – if you have already lost teeth to decay, there’s a good chance the anchoring tooth may reach a similar state, and your dentist will try to avoid further deterioration by fitting an implant.
What happens during the implanting procedure?
The length of the procedure depends on what condition your mouth is currently in, for instance, if your jaw has started to break down in places because there are no teeth in it, you will need a bone graft to give the implants something to bond with, this adds a little extra onto the treatment time. When you are ready to have your implants fitted, you will be administered local anaesthetic, so you will be awake throughout the procedure, but you won’t feel anything. When your mouth is completely numb, your dentist can begin the implantation, this is done by cutting a hole in the gums with a sharp instrument. The incision must reach the bone beneath, so that the titanium roots have something to bond with. Then the metal rods will be fitted securely into the jaw bone and the gums sewn up to create a seal around the protruding screw.
What happens after the implanting procedure?
Unless you are having immediate implants, you will be sent home for your mouth to heal, so that the new teeth can eventually be fitted. Delayed implants are the more popular of the two procedures, as most dentists are more comfortable with letting the gums heal before attaching new pieces. It can take up to six months for the rods to bond fully with the bone and to become sturdy enough to support a false tooth – called an abutment. While you wait for the implants to heal, your dentist might supply you with a dental bridge to create the appearance of a flawless smile, this also makes it easier to bite and chew, and helps you get into the habit of cleaning around a full set of teeth.
You will be expected to attend several follow up appointments, due to the surgical nature of the procedure, so the dentist can check that everything is healing well and there are no signs of infection. You might be surprised to learn how far medical science has come, particularly at the Pearl Dental Clinic, where implantology is among the most requested treatments available. It takes skill and training to learn this new technique, and the highly qualified surgeons at the London clinic are at the top of their game. Give them a call and book a consultation, if you think implants could be the way forward for you.
Are dental implants safe?
Like all types of surgery, dental implants carry with them a certain amount of risk; it’s just a question of weighing the negatives against the positives. Properly placed dental implants are known to have a very high success rate, lasting for years and years in their best condition. The risks really are minimal, ranging from the expected swelling or tenderness directly after surgery, to more serious problems like nerve damage to the chin and lips, and possibly even implanting failure. This might sound scary, but as the technology and training in this area is moving forward every day, it’s highly unlikely that you will suffer long-lasting ill effects of this type of treatment. Make sure you talk through the risks and rewards with your dentist beforehand, it’s important to know what side effects may present themselves in the worst case scenario.