If you have missing or damaged teeth, dental implants are generally considered the best option to give you back your self-esteem, but what are the benefits of dental implants, what is involved in the procedure and can anyone have them?
In simple terms, a dental implant is an artificial tooth root, usually made of titanium. It consists of a metal rod with an internal screw or clip to hold a false tooth in place. The implant integrates into the structure of the bone and prevents gum recession and bone loss that can occur with bridgework and dentures. If you have bridgework, often it can impact on the health of the neighbouring teeth, as these are used to help support the bridge - with dental implants your own teeth are left untouched and not affected in any way. They are an effective long-term alternative to removable dentures and bridges. As they are fully secure they allow you to speak and eat with comfort and no one will ever know that you have a replacement tooth as they look and feel like your own teeth.
Can anyone have dental implants?
They are suitable for the vast majority of people but it is important to discuss the procedure with your dentist as there are some medical conditions where implants will not be appropriate. For example, success can be affected if you suffer with diabetes, osteoporosis or high blood pressure. If you are a smoker, unless you can guarantee you can stop smoking, implants are probably not the best option for you as the effects of smoking can lead to complications with the bone healing process.
What is involved if I choose to have dental implants?
If you are in good general and oral health the procedure will involve:
• Your dentist x-raying your jaw to ensure the jawbone is sufficiently healthy and of the right thickness to support the implant. A local anaesthetic will be given to block any pain from your mouth and a cut is then made into the gum. A small hole is then drilled into the jawbone and the implant is fitted into this hole.
What happens afterwards?
The implant takes approximately 3 months to heal and to integrate fully into your jawbone. During this time, you can be fitted with a bridge or partial dentures, or your own complete dentures can be adjusted to hide any gaps whilst you wait for this process to complete.
Once the implant has ‘taken’, a second smaller surgical procedure is needed to fit the artificial tooth onto the implant. Your dentist will then check the implant is comfortable for you, fits properly, and matches your other teeth.
Some pain relief may be needed immediately after the surgery to ease any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off and it’s advisable to only eat soft food on the day the implant has been fitted.
Do dental implants require any special care?
One of the best things about dental implants is they do not require any special care that you wouldn’t give your teeth ordinarily – infact, you will probably forget they are in any way different to your other teeth! Whilst there is no lifetime guarantee with dental implants, they will last for as long as you care for them.
Having teeth that fit comfortably, feel secure, and look great will undoubtedly help to renew your confidence and they will definitely make you proud of your smile again!