Implant dentistry is based on a process of integration of titanium or zirconia to the surrounding bone. This allows the replacement of a tooth or teeth, since it forms a very strong and stable base, maintaining the surrounding bone. This is the reason why implants give you the comfort, functionality and beauty of healthy teeth.
In order to understand how implants work it is important to appreciate the way in which healing takes place. When a tooth is taken out it leaves a hole in the gum which fills up with a blood clot. Within two months the hole in the jaw is covered with gum, slowly over the next six months the bone fills the hole completely. The healing of implants depends on this natural process. Teeth might need to be taken out due to dental or gum disease. Failed root canal therapy can also lead to loss of teeth.
Why should I replace missing teeth?
Your appearance is one reason. Another is that the gap left by a missing tooth can mean greater strain on the teeth at either side. A 'gap' also means your 'bite' is affected, because the teeth next to space can lean into the gap and alter the way the upper and lower teeth bite together. This can lead to food getting packed into the gap, which causes decay and gum disease with eventual tooth loss.
Are implants safe and how long will they last?
Implants are a well-established, tried-and-tested treatment. Evidence shows that 95% of modern implants should last for many years with the right care.
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.
Can implants always be used to replace missing teeth?
It depends on the condition of the bone in your jaw. We will arrange for a number of special tests to find out the amount of bone still there. If there is not enough bone, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area.
Do implants hurt?
Placing the implants can be 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. This is usually due to having stitches, and the normal healing process.
How long does the treatment take?
Many implant systems now allow the time to be as short as 2-3 months. Some teeth can even be fitted at the same time as the implants (known as immediate implants)
What about aftercare?
You will get pain relief after surgery, which will possibly be continued over the next few days.
Take antibiotics, if prescribed. Don't smoke, exercise or drive for the rest of the day. Don't rinse the area and only eat soft foods. However, it is important that you keep your mouth clean by brushing-but do not poke the implant site. You can use a mouthwash every day during the first week after surgery.
What happens next?
The implants need to bond with the bone after they have been put in. This usually takes 3 months in the lower jaw and 6 months in the upper jaw. Sometimes, the implants may be stable enough when they are fitted for the artificial to be attached. If you have a complete denture, you will continue wearing these throughout the healing period once they have been modified after the surgery. A healing cap will usually be placed onto the implant site to protect the area during healing.
Are the teeth difficult to clean?
No, but aftercare is important if you are going to have a long-lasting, successful implant. We will 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 methods to help you. You may need to visit the hygienist more often.
Can I take the teeth out if they are fixed to implants?
Most artificial teeth attached to implants can only be placed and removed by us. However, if you have complete dentures fixed to the implants by bars, then you'll be able to take them out for cleaning.
Do the implants show?
We will make sure that the implants won't show during all normal movements of the mouth and lips. You will need to be able to see them so that you can clean them properly.
Do I have to have an implant for each missing tooth?
No, unless you're only having a single tooth replaced. Normally, five or six implants are used to replace all the teeth in one jaw, as each implant can usually support a number of teeth. There is also the concept of ALL-ON-4 where all the teeth in one arch are supported with 4 implants placed in a specific way.
What if I have an accident after implant treatment?
Implants and the teeth they support can be damaged by an accident in the same way the natural teeth can. It is therefore important that you wear a professionally made mouthguard if you play sports that involve contact or moving objects. If there is damage, the teeth can be dismantled from the implant and replaced. However, if the titanium rod is damaged beyond repair, this part may be safely left in the jaw if it is too difficult to remove. Another implant may be placed alongside it to replace the damaged implant.
What happens if the implant does not bond with the bone?
This happens very rarely. If the implant becomes loose during the healing period or just after, then it is easily removed and healing takes place in the normal way. Once the jaw has healed, another implant can be placed there.
What are the possible complications of implant treatment?
We minimise these risks by a very high commitment to careful planning and meticulous surgical treatment.
Implant placement carries a very small risk of damage to adjacent structures, such as adjacent teeth (which might be accidentally damaged). When replacing an upper posterior tooth, there are certain risks associated with the sinuses or infection resulting in a fistula which would entail additional treatment to solve the problem. If a local sinus tap is decided upon, there is a possibility that the sinus lining is perforated, in which case we have to abandon the surgical procedure and we won't be able to place the implant on that day but allow for some healing to occur.
The procedure of replacement of the lower teeth might damage the nerve which is passing through the jaw bone, which might lead to numbness temporary or permanent of the lower side of the face extending to the right side of the lower lip. Accurate planning with the use of the necessary diagnostic tools before the procedure will minimise this risk. There is a risk of gum recession around the implant. Although this may not affect its survival it might need further treatment for aesthetic reasons.