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Dental Implants

Dental implants are an ideal replacement for any missing teeth, and they can also be used to secure dentures that have become loose.

So what are they and how do they work?

They are titanium screws implanted directly into the jawbone and, once fitted, they look, feel and operate like natural teeth.

What does the treatment entail, and is it painful?

As your implants are put in place using local anaesthetic there is no pain whatsoever during the actual procedure. Naturally, you may feel uncomfortable during the next few days, but that can be modified by taking standard pain-killers.

It helps if you know exactly what is going to be done, so here is a brief resume of the procedure which will help ease any anxiety which you may be feeling.

The dental implant is placed very gently and carefully into healthy bone, under anaesthetic as has been said, and the gum is then stitched over the top. There is no need to have any concern about having the stitches taken out, because they will dissolve naturally during the next few weeks.

It is usual to allow the implant to fuse into the bone for a period of between three months and six months, by which time the bone will have grown round the implant so that it is held securely in place.

Once that procedure has been completed the implant can even be used to secure crowns, bridges and dentures.

What if there is more than one missing tooth?

If you are missing just one natural tooth, then one implant is normally all that will be needed to provide a replacement.

However, if there are three or more missing teeth it does not necessarily mean that you will have to have one implant for each of them. That depends on the quality and volume of bone in the space created by the missing teeth.

It is, on occasions, possible to  join natural teeth to implants with a conventional bridge.

The rule of thumb is that, if you have no teeth at all most dentists will want to place a minimum of six implants to support a complete arch of ten or more replacement teeth in the upper jaw.

As the bone towards the front of the mouth in the lower jaw is often much stronger fewer implants may be needed than in a whole upper jaw. A simple treatment plan to provide 10 or more teeth in the lower jaw might be possible with as few as four implants, although it is still more common to use five or six.

Do dental implants work for everybody?

If you have good general health then dental implants will almost certainly work for you. However, habits such as heavy drinking or smoking can increase the number of problems associated with initial healing. Indeed, it has been known for some dentists to refuse to place implants if smoking cannot be reduced or given up altogether.

While the focus of your attention may well be on improving your appearance by means of dental implants it is important that you do not skimp on the basic dental health procedures – such as treatment of gum disease, repair of decay and the elimination of abscesses – if you are to enhance the chances of the long-term success of the implant process.

How long does treatment take and how long will the implants last?

The time for treatment can vary considerably, depending on the healthiness and strength of the bone, but as a general guide a straightforward operation usually takes between six weeks and six months from the time of the implant placement to the time of placing the first teeth.

As for the length of time that implants last, that is very much down to you. Once they are seen to be healthy and the new teeth are comfortable, it is the quality of your care of them that will determine their life-span.

You see, if implants are not properly looked after they develop a covering of calculus and plaque very similar to that to be found on neglected natural teeth, and if this deposit is left untreated it can lead to gum infection.

The bottom line is that implants need exactly the same sort of care and attention as natural teeth. They will last for just as long as you keep them clean.