A dental implant is a titanium metal rod which is placed into the jawbone. It is used to support one or more false teeth. In practice, both the false teeth and their supporting rod are known as ‘implants’.
Implants are a well-established, tried-and-tested treatment. 90 per cent of modern implants last for at least 15 years.
You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants – from one single tooth to a complete set.
Can implants always be used to replace missing teeth?
It depends on the state of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist will arrange for a number of special tests to assess the amount of bone still there. If there is not enough, or if it isn’t healthy enough, it may not be possible to place implants without grafting bone into the area first.
Do implants hurt?
Placing the implants requires a small operation. This can be carried out under local anaesthetic and sedation. You will not feel any pain at the time, but you may feel some discomfort during the week following the surgery. This is usually due to having stitches in place, and the normal healing process.
Can I have the new teeth straight away?
No. The implants need to bond (integrate) with the bone after they have been placed. This takes at least 3 months in the lower jaw and 6 months in the upper jaw. If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you will have a temporary restoration in the meantime. If you have complete dentures, then you can wear them throughout the healing period once they have been
adjusted after the surgery.
It takes about 12 months from the initial assessment to the time when the artificial teeth or dentures are finally attached to the implants. However, if only the lower jaw is involved then it may only take around 5 months.
A lot depends on how complicated your treatment is. Your dentist will be able to give you a timetable once the surgery has been done.
Are the teeth difficult to clean?
Cleaning around the teeth attached to the implants is no more difficult than cleaning natural teeth. However, there may be areas that give you problems and you’ll be shown methods to help.
If I had gum disease when I had my own teeth, will I get it with the teeth attached to the implants?
Yes, if you don’t care for them well enough. If you keep them clean, and don’t smoke, then you should not have any problems.
Can I take the teeth out if they are fixed to implants?
Most artificial teeth attached to implants can only be placed and removed by the dentist. However, if you have complete dentures fixed to the implants by bars, then you’ll be able to take them out for cleaning.
Do the implants show?
Your dentist will make sure that the implants won’t show during all normal movements of the mouth and lips. You will need to be able to see them, so that you can clean them properly.
Do I have an implant for each missing tooth?
No, unless you’re only having a single tooth replaced. Normally, five or six implants are used to replace all the teeth in one jaw, as each implant can usually support two teeth. For a few missing teeth, two or three implants may be used.