Dental implants and implant crowns are the closest thing you will get to a replacement tooth that looks and functions like your natural tooth. Dental implants not only enable you to regain your confidence and psychologically be able to enjoy an active lifestyle, but they can improve your smile; help you to once again enjoy chewing all the foods you like, and; help to restore your facial structure and youthful appearance.
Dental implants are a cosmetic breakthrough for people who want to replace their missing tooth/teeth permanently. You can have one or more implants depending on your needs and the number of missing teeth. The most advanced solution for people with missing teeth is a dental implant in combination with a laboratory-fabricated crown/dental bridge as it is more stable than a removable partial denture and more aesthetic than a fixed dental bridge.
A dental implant is metal screw (usually titanium) that is surgically placed beneath your gums to act as artificial tooth roots once they have become osseo-integrated with the surrounding bone. These implants offer stable support to artificial teeth, whether in the form of a single crown, a fixed bridge, or beneath a removable denture.
What are the benefits of having dental implants?
The main advantages of having a dental implant are:
- Improved confidence and self esteem – replacing missing teeth with highly functional, stable and aesthetic replacements.
- Improved comfort and speech – as you are replacing a missing tooth with a near replica your tongue will think that everything is normal. Also, if you have a denture there is increased bulk inside your mouth with the possibility of a denture moving around if ill-fitting.
- Preserve tooth structure – there is no need to damage neighbouring teeth in comparison to a dental bridge.
- Better oral hygiene- an implant and implant crown allows you to floss and clean easily.
- Improved eating ability – if implants are used to stabilise dentures there is little movement of the denture when eating; compared to if the dentures were supported by gums only.
- Prevent neighbouring teeth from moving into the gap.
- Prevent jawbone resorption
For those who do not have adequate amounts of jaw bone, an initial bone graft may be required.
For those with adequate bone density and levels, implants can be placed immediately after a tooth extraction or within a healed bone (usually within 3-6 months after a tooth extraction). If an implant is placed once bone is healed the dental implant procedure is performed in two phases. Phase one of the dental implant procedure involves surgically placing the implant into the jawbone at the site of tooth loss. Three to six months healing is required for the bone to osseo-integrate with the implant which ensures that the implant will not move. Phase two of the dental implant involves restoring your implant with a dental crown, dental bridge or denture.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Q. What are my other options?
A. A conventional fixed bridge still remains an excellent treatment option. However, many individuals who have lost or who will be losing a single tooth may be hesitant to grind down their intact adjacent teeth, especially when the adjacent teeth are free of cavities or restorations. For these individuals, a single tooth dental implant may be the ideal option.
Q. Is everyone a candidate for implants?
A. As with any medical or dental procedure, the placement of implants may have a compromised success rate in certain individuals. Some of the reasons why you may not be a suitable candidate for a dental implant include:
- insufficient bone quantity
- poor bone quality
- inadequate amount of space between your upper and lower teeth
- vital anatomical structure in close proximity to the proposed implant site
- unrealistic expectations about the aesthetic outcome, or
- a still-growing mouth and face
- certain chronic diseases such as diabetes, osteoporosis or gum disease can have the potential to interfere with the integration of bone to these implants. Individuals who smoke regularly will usually have a poorer prognosis for the implants in the long run
Q. How do you care for implants?
A. The long term success of implants is, in part, determined by meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Although you cannot develop cavities or periodontal disease with implants, it is possible to develop what is called peri-implantitis, which is inflammation of the tissues around the implants. To prevent this, brushing and flossing is important as well as your regular dental check-ups.