What is a dental implant?

Dental implants are a popular choice for patients who have missing teeth, often as a result of an accident or injury. Patients who have to wear dentures or a bridge are also suitable for dental implants.

An implant is a thin, metal rod, often made from titanium which acts an artificial tooth root and forms an attachment for a replacement tooth.
Implants are strong, long lasting and indistinguishable from natural teeth. They look and behave in exactly the same way as ‘real teeth’ and can hold a single tooth or several via an overdenture or bridge.
They do require the same amount of care and attention as natural teeth. This means daily brushing and flossing plus regular checks up with the dentist.
Can I have an implant?
How much do dental implants cost?
How long does dental implant treatment take?
These are just some of the more commonly asked question about dental implants.
For further information on dental implants visit the cosmetic dentistry guide.
What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is an artificial replacement for the root part of a tooth. An implant takes the form of a small metal post which is screw or cylinder shaped and is usually made of titanium.
Titanium is the most popular material used as this works well with living bone and tissue with living bone and tissue, without any risk of rejection or inflammation.
Other materials can be used which include titanium alloy, stainless steel and zirconium.
The implant is inserted into your jawbone and allowed time to fuse with the bone in a process called ‘osseointegration’. Once this has happened, a replacement tooth called a restoration can be fitted to it via a small attachment.
Implants can be placed in either your upper or lower jaw and can hold several teeth in place at once.
An implant is seen as a prosthetic replacement for the problem of missing teeth although it also falls into the cosmetic dentistry category.
There are two types of implant:
Endosteal (‘Root Form’)
The subperiosteal implant usually takes the form of a metal framework which is placed onto the jawbone just underneath the gums. This framework has small metal posts which protrude through the gums. These enable the attachment of replacement teeth. This type of implant is less commonly used.
The ‘Root Form’ implant is the most popular type of implant and is inserted into the jawbone.
Most patients are suitable for a dental implant although there are exceptions. Mini dental implants are a good choice for those patients who for a variety of reasons are unable to have the conventional type of implant.
Visit the mini dental implants section for further information.
Am I suitable for a dental implant?
Your suitability for a dental implant will be decided by your dentist. He or she will ask you about your lifestyle as well as your reasons for an implant.
The dentist will check your teeth and carry out other diagnostics such as an x-ray and/or CAT scan. This will enable him/her to assess the condition of your teeth and more importantly, your jaw.
The reason for this is that you need to have enough bone density to hold an implant in place. Bone loss tends to happen when a missing tooth is not replaced or as result of the ageing process. If this is the case you will require a bone graft to build up your thin jawbone.
If you teeth are in poor condition or you are suffering from gum disease (periodontal disease), bad breath or an abscess then these will have to be treated before implant treatment.
Other possible exclusions include:
Smoking: if you are a heavy smoker then your dentist will advise you to put this on hold or stop altogether. The reason for this is that smoking slows the healing process.
Alcohol: the same applies here. Excessive alcohol intake can affect the healing of the gums.
Bruxism: also known as ‘teeth grinding’. If you have a tendency to grind your teeth (usually caused by stress) then your dentist will give you a ‘splint’ which can be worn at night. This will prevent further damage to your teeth.
Auto-immune diseases: if you are suffering from a disease of the immune system or are undergoing chemotherapy then your dentist may advise against implant treatment.
Pregnancy or breastfeeding
Diabetes or hypertension (high blood pressure)
Under 19: dentists do not usually treat patients who are under 19. They prefer to wait until the jawbone has fully grown before considering an implant.
Basically, if you are healthy and are prepared to follow a dental hygiene routine then you will be considered for an implant.
What should I ask the dental implant dentist?
There are likely to be a whole range of things you want to ask and it is so easy to forget something which is vitally important. What some patients find helpful is to write down a list of questions beforehand. This can be very useful and means that you are fully prepared when you meet with a dentist.
If you have put together a shortlist of dentists then you can take this list with you, and decide from their replies whether they are the right person for you.
Here is a list of questions which you can take with you:
How many years have you been in practice?
What qualifications do you hold?
Are you a member of a professional organisation, for example, the British Dental Association?
How many years have you spent carrying out dental implants?
Do you specialise in any other procedures?
What type of anaesthetic will I be given?
I am likely to feel any pain during the procedure?
What are your success rates for this treatment?
What are the chances of something going wrong?
How much does a dental implant cost?
If something does go wrong will I have to pay extra?
What does the price include?
Do you have any ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs I can look at?
What can I expect from this procedure?
How long does the procedure take?
Is there anything I have to do afterwards?
Is there an aftercare service?
How long do dental implants last for?
Make sure that you are satisfied with the answers and if you don’t understand anything, ask until you do. If the dentist appears uninterested or pushy then find someone else.
Is dental implants likely to hurt?
The procedure itself is painless although you may experience some pain or discomfort afterwards. You will be given a local anaesthetic to help numb the area and this will take a few hours to wear off.
What is the dental implant procedure?
The procedure is usually carried out in two stages – known as a ‘two stage placement’ although some clinics are offering a single stage procedure called ‘immediate loading’.
The two stage placement procedure starts with an initial consultation, which includes an x-ray. This enables the dentist to check the positioning of your teeth and the condition of your jaw.

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