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All About Dental Implant

All About Dental Implant

People lose teeth all the time, either through trauma (when they are knocked out), or due to decay, gum disease or old age. Whatever the reason, lost teeth need to be replaced, both for aesthetic and functional reasons. The most common treatments for missing teeth are either a denture or a fixed bridge. However, dental implants are rapidly becoming a first choice procedure to replace missing teeth as they provide a longer-term solution, slow down bone loss and preserve nearby healthy tooth tissue.

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is an artificial replacement for the root portion of your natural tooth. It is anchored into a pre-drilled socket in your jaw-bone to support a crown, bridge or to secure a denture firmly in place. Implants are made from titanium, a material that is well tolerated by bone and integrates easily with bone tissue. During the placement of a dental implant, the goal is to achieve a close contact between the outer surface of the implant and the surrounding bone tissue so they can ‘fuse’ together, a process known as ‘osseointegration,’ which creates a stable support for the new teeth.

How is a dental implant placed?

Before any implants are placed, it is important for your dentist to assess the health of your teeth and gums. If there are any signs of gum disease or decay, these must be treated first. After this treatment, your dental implant procedure will be planned, starting with a series of X-rays that are taken to assess bone quality. The placing of the implants is usually carried out under local anaesthesia.

The actual procedure itself involves cutting and lifting the area of gum where the implant is to be placed and drilling a small hole in the jawbone at the precise location. The implant is then tightly fitted into this socket and the gum is stitched back into place. It is left to heal and integrate with the jawbone for between six weeks to three months. During this healing period, patients are either given temporary teeth (bridges), or continue to wear dentures.  After the required time has elapsed, the gum is again lifted and a post with a temporary crown attached to the implant. One week later, when the surrounding gum tissue has matured, the final permanent restoration can be fitted to the implant.

What are the advantages of dental implants over dentures and bridges?

  • Reduced bone loss
    Normally, the bone tissue surrounding the root of your tooth is maintained by your body’s natural renewal process. A dental implant placed in that area can actually stimulate bone growth and production, preventing loss of valuable bone structure.
  • Improved function
    Once dental implants are fully integrated into your jaw, they function just as well as your own natural teeth; i.e. you can eat the foods you want and speak with complete confidence.
  • Improved dental hygiene
    Unlike bridges and dentures, which require special cleaning instructions and extra attention, dental implants just need regular brushingflossing and dental hygiene appointments, the same as your natural teeth.
  • No need to drill or remove any healthy tooth structure
    When replacing missing teeth with dental bridges, the teeth adjacent to the gap need to be prepared and some of their healthy tooth structure removed to accommodate a crown or bridge. If, in the future, one of the supporting teeth is damaged, the entire bridge restoration will also be compromised. Replacing lost teeth with an implant, however, means that no support is required for adjacent teeth.
  • Better aesthetics
    If done correctly, a dental implant should be indistinguishable from your surrounding natural teeth. Dentures can come loose and look unnatural if they do not blend with your gums, and some bridges and dentures have unsightly metal clasps to hold them in place. Dental implants provide a much better cosmetic and functional end result.

How many teeth can a dental implant support?

If you have several missing teeth, you do not necessarily need an implant for every missing tooth, as one implant can support several teeth via a bridge or denture. The number of implants required depends on the volume and density of bone tissue available at each implant site. In the case of full-mouth reconstructions, where an arch of several teeth (10+) needs to be supported in either the upper or lower jaw, a minimum of five to six implants in each jaw would be required.

Am I a suitable candidate for dental implants?

Dental implants can be placed in patients of any age (with fully developed jawbones), provided that they have a sufficient quantity and quality of bone tissue available. Most healthy individuals that maintain a good oral hygiene programme are suitable candidates for dental implants.

How long do dental implants last?

Dental implants have been used for over 30 years to replace missing teeth and they can last a lifetime, depending of course on how well you look after them. Like any other restoration, implant-supported teeth can still be damaged by trauma and affected by gum disease and poor oral hygiene.

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