What is a Dental Implant?

A Dental implant is a titanium screw that is placed into the bone of the jaw and used as an anchor to support a new tooth in the mouth.

For many years if we lost a tooth there were only three things that could be done. The first was to make a removable denture, however they could be quite bulky compared to the size of the tooth and most patients didn’t like the idea of false teeth.

The second was to fit a bridge. Although this was fixed and therefore did not need to be removed, it did involve cutting down of the adjacent teeth which on many occasions were otherwise perfectly healthy.

The third option was to do nothing at all which was fine if you had lost a wisdom tooth but not so practical if you were missing front teeth that were visible in you smile!

dental-implant

With the advent of dental implants a fourth option became available to patients. The advantages over the denture or bridge alternative were considerable. The new tooth was fixed and there was no longer any need to irreparably damage the adjacent healthy teeth. So not surprisingly the introduction of dental implants was a game changer and now they are considered in most instances the gold standard for replacing missing teeth.

Although there are many different scenarios for gaps of different sizes or in different parts of the mouth, the basic process for all implants is the same. A dental implant can be divided into three separate component parts.

Firstly the implant itself, as mentioned above, this is a titanium hollow screw of variable diameter that is placed in an identical sized formed recess in the jaw. Over a period of several months the bone of the jaw knits to the titanium making the screw completely secure in the jaw.

The second component is known is the abutment. In simple terms it can be thought of as the piece that joins the titanium screw (as described above) to the porcelain tooth. One end of the abutment screws into the inside of the implant and the other end acts as the anchor for the new tooth. The third component is the replacement tooth itself which is usually made of a precious metal covered in a layer of porcelain to make it look like a tooth. It can either be cemented to the abutment or screwed into it.

Of course the above simplified explanation describes the case of a single implant used to replace a single missing teeth. However gaps in patients mouths come in all sorts of sizes and can be in the upper or lower jaw and at the from or the back. In nearly all instances there is likely to be an implant based solution to restore a gap in any part of the mouth however big. Where gaps are larger, multiple implants can be used to support multiple joined crowns otherwise known as a bridge.

For example if you are missing your four upper front teeth, two implants could be placed and subsequently used to support four new joined porcelain teeth in the form of a four tooth bridge. Where there has been a complete loss of teeth, multiple implants can be used to carry whole arch bridgework as a removable denture which clicks very firmly into place on the implants.

The key deciding factor for whether an implant is an option for a patient is an assessment of the bone in the jaw where the new implant is to be placed. In simple terms there needs to be a greater height and width of bone to fully surround the whole titanium screw whatever length is chosen. Thus a 10mm implant which is 4mm in diameter will need about 12mm of jaw bone which is at least 6-7mm in width. This assessment is usually made by using radiographs (x-rays) but can also be made by the taking of a CT scan. The advantages of the latter is that it can provide a three dimensional view of the jaw.

So if you are thinking about implants what is the process?

Firstly you will need an assessment. This will involve a thorough examination of your mouth and as described above and radiographs. In many instances it is also necessary to take moulds of your teeth to allow models of your teeth to be made.

Assuming that you are a suitable candidate, the second appointment involves the placing of the titanium screw component of the implant into the jaw. In most cases this is carried out under normal local dental anaesthetic – the same as you would have for a filling or extraction. From a patient’s point of view this is usually considered to be the most difficult of the appointments required. Afterwards there is likely to be some bruising and a some post operative pain, however this can be alleviated by painkillers and antibiotics and things normally settle down after a few days.

The implant is then allowed 3-4 months to knit to the adjacent bone after which another appointment is required to take further remoulds of the mouth which locate the implants in the mouth; in most cases dental anaesthetic is also required for this appointment.

The moulds are then sent to a Dental Technician who then constructs the new implant supported porcelain teeth. This usually takes about two weeks after which the final appointment is scheduled for the new tooth/teeth to be fitted.

So in simple non-complex cases, a total of four appointments are required which are normally spread over about 5-6 months.

If you would like further information on whether or not implants could be for for you please contact your local contact your local dentist exeter, Life Dental and Wellbeing on 01392 278843 or email us at info@lifedentalandwellbeing.co.uk and we would be happy to talk things through with you.

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