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What are dental implants?

Developed from medical grade titanium, an implant is an ideal substitute for a natural tooth root to which a porcelain crown is secured, if you are missing only one tooth, or a bridge for patients who are wishing to replace several teeth.

Who can benefit from them?

The benefits of dental implants extend far beyond recreating a perfect smile that may have been lost because of the need to remove a tooth that was damaged in an accident, or had severe tooth decay.

It is important to replace missing teeth to maintain good oral health. Missing one or more teeth can cause serious complications including deterioration of your jawbone density, gum and soft tissue problems and your teeth on either side of the space can move and become crooked, this can make them difficult to clean effectively and can result in further problems such as periodontal disease. Of greater significance is the finding from the Mayo clinic that patients without any of their own teeth were far more likely to end up in a nursing care facility as compared to corresponding people of similar age with their own teeth, later in life. This may be as a result of impaired nutrition resulting from poorly functioning dentures.

How they can change your life

For many years, dental implants have been giving patients the freedom and confidence that comes with a full healthy looking smile and mouth function. People who have undergone implant treatment have reported greater self-esteem in their personal and professional life, while older patients feel more secure with implants than dentures.

The Procedure

A thorough assessment is conducted before the commencement of any treatment, called a complete dental physical. This is to establish there is adequate jawbone structure to support your implant, an oral examination to ensure your gums are in optimal health and may even involve a full set of detailed x-rays, photographs, impressions and/or an iCAT scan.

Although requiring meticulous planning and preparation, placement of an implant is a safe procedure and performed under a local anaesthetic, with patients reporting very little to no discomfort, and the majority returning to their normal daily routine or work the following day.

Placement of your implant will generally take around an hour. A small incision is made, and the implant

guided into the optimal predetermined position distinguished by oral examinations and x-rays. Once in place, the incision is sutured and the implant left to heal and integrate with your jawbone. Your age, oral health and overall general health will influence your healing time period, but will usually take around 12-24 weeks, during which time you may receive a temporary crown or bridge so you can retain full mouth function and appearance.

An impression of your mouth is taken at various stages throughout your treatment so a detailed replacement crown or bridge can be fabricated in a dental laboratory, ensuring an exact fit.Once healed, the head of the implant is uncovered and a component, known as an abutment is attached; it is this fixture to which your newly made crown or bridge is secured.

What is used to restore the implants?

Implants fundamentally are a foundation, used to support some form of tooth replacement. This may range from Porcelain and gold/precious metal framework to acrylic and metal framework for replacement teeth that are permanently secured in the mouth. These are brushed and flossed just as natural teeth are, and have the least amount of ongoing maintenance requirements.Another option is using implants as a stabilising tool for removable replacement teeth. These are “locked down” onto the implants and are far superior to conventional partial dentures or full dentures, although they are removable by the patient.

How do I care for my new implants?

Caring for your dental implants requires the same routine as for your natural teeth, regular brushing twice every day with a soft bristled toothbrush and flossing once a day will ensure you new implants are kept in their optimal condition. For some patients, a high pressure water irrigator is a good tool for cleaning beneath larger (full arch) bridges.

Even though crowns and bridges are fabricated from high-grade porcelain and much more resistant to staining than natural teeth, your gums and surrounding soft tissue is still susceptible to gum disease and periodontitis, this can cause severe complications with the abutment and implant.

Success rate

Dental implants are made from medical grade titanium. Titanium is utilised because it is biologically compatible with living bone and muscle tissue. Most patients who have good general and oral health are suitable for dental implants, and although enjoying a very high success rate (95% or more for non-smoking patients), there are a small percentage of patients who may not be suitable for various reasons. These may include, type ll diabetes, a pre-existing medical condition, bone diseases, some psychiatric disorders, inadequate bone and gum tissue to support the implant, or alcoholism.

Once your implant has been placed it is rare for it not to integrate with your jawbone, however if this does occur it may need to be removed, and after a short healing period can often be replaced with a new implant, it is very unlikely the second implant will not be successful.