What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a long-term solution for replacing missing teeth. Your dentist places them directly into your jawbone, where they provide an artificial replacement for the root of your missing tooth or teeth. Dental implants support crowns or dentures, in a similar way that roots support natural teeth.
Why would I need a dental implant?
Tooth loss can occur as a result of poor healthcare, genetics or as a result of an accident.
Whilst some choose to live life missing one or more teeth, others prefer to replace them.
Dentures are the usual solution and whilst functional, need more regular replacement.
Some wearers find them uncomfortable, develop a whistle or simply can’t get used to them. They have to be removed regularly for cleaning and do not necessarily provide the same stability.
An implant is an option available to those missing teeth, who wish to restore a natural smile or tooth structure to their mouth with the extra confidence of stability they bring.
When completed properly, an artificial tooth attached to an implant can look, feel and function just like a natural tooth.
For you, this can mean the confidence to smile again, as a gap in your teeth has been restored.
It can help with the chewing of food and simply living daily life.
In some cases, it can help retain or bring back structure to the mouth, jaw and surrounding facial tissue that has been lost as a result of the natural teeth no longer being present.
In more severe cases, an implant is used as an anchor for facial prosthetics.
Dental implants are in most cases, not a vital need, but they are a cosmetic option that can have a significant beneficial impact for those who are suitable for and chose to have them.
Can anyone get dental implants?
In most cases, anyone healthy enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery can be considered for a dental implant. Patients should have healthy gums and enough bone to hold the implant. They also must be committed to good oral hygiene and regular dental visits. Heavy smokers, people suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders such as diabetes or heart disease or patients who have had radiation therapy to the head/neck area need to be evaluated on an individual basis.
What is involved in getting a dental implant?
First, your dentist will create a treatment plain tailed to your needs.
The tooth root implant, which is a small post made of titanium, is placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw.
Once the implant has bonded to the jawbone, a small connector post called an abutment is attached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. A replacement tooth, called a crown, is then attached to the abutment.
Advantages and disadvantages of dental implants
A clear list of positives and negatives can be really helpful in better understanding a topic.
Here is a list of what can be considered the main advantages and disadvantages of having dental implants.
- Long-lasting and durable – This is a solution that can last 25+ years with the correct care.
- Versatile – Implants can be used to replace, 1, 2 or even a whole set of teeth, in most positions in the mouth.
- Feel and comfort – Once fitted the teeth for intents and purpose feel and act like natural ones for a more natural and comfortable feel.
- Restore confidence and happiness – Implants can replace gaps in the teeth, restoring confidence and happiness that was lost when the teeth were missing.
- You can’t lose them – Silly as it might sound, when attached to your jaw, these teeth can’t be set aside and forgotten like dentures can.
- Prevents bone loss – When teeth are lost, the bone that surrounds them shrinks. Having implants keeps this bone, which can help keep the shape of your face.
- Stand alone –The implant does not rely on other teeth in the mouth to secure them.
- No issues with speech – The fitting is so good that you don’t get the whistle or difficulties speaking that you might with dentures.
- Allow normal eating – Eat foods you would have or do with normal teeth, no special diet required (once treatment is complete).
- No adhesives or special cleaning required -Clean them and treat them like regular natural teeth
- Success rate — 90-95% of those that have dental implant treatment are considered a success. Only in a few instances are they not suitable or treatment does not go to plan.
Of course there are some negatives to consider too.
- Price -Be it 1 or multiple implants, these are a more expensive treatment to replace missing teeth.
- Upkeep -You treat them like regular teeth, so brushing, flossing, dental checkups are all still necessary.
- Longer treatment time – With 3-9 months average treatment time, implants are not a quick fix.
- Surgery – Whilst relatively routine, it is invasive and requires anaesthetic, drilling, discomfort and healing time, which will not be right for all.
- Infection – Like all surgical treatments there is a risk that infection can occur.
- Complications and failure – Implants do not work for all, not all implants will fuse with the jaw bone and be the success hoped for. Other complications such as nerve damage can occur.
- Suitability – Implants are not suitable for everyone. They are not recommended in people with severe gum disease or patients who have had radiography to the jaw. Those taking certain medications such as bisphosphonates and patients who suffer from immunosuppression are not recommended. Smoking will also affect whether a dentist will treat you or not.
Alternatives to dental implants
There are in a large proportion of cases alternatives to dental implants, each of which have their own pros and cons.
In many cases, a dentist will often recommend or suggest these prior to dental implants. This is to make sure you have considered the other options because the cost of the alternatives are cheaper than implants.
It will ultimately be for you to decide what option you feel is best.
However, there are a couple of other implant options which might well be of interest as they can be cheaper and require less surgery.
- Mini Implants
Half the size of regular implants, they can be placed faster with less hardware than traditional implants and offer a quicker healing time.
- Removable implants (Implant retained dentures)
A typical implant into the jawbone is required, but the removable element is the prosthetic that is attached to the implant.
Using ball joint or bar fittings, the artificial teeth and gum that are attached can essentially be snapped on and off of the implant.
This means you can remove them when necessary for cleaning to make the process easier.
More affordable, they can be better suited to those who have unhealthy gum tissue or a weaker jaw bone.
Your alternative implant free options include:
- Tooth supported fixed bridge
Where only 1 tooth is to be replaced, a tooth supported fixed bridge is a popular option.
This approach relies on the tooth either side that needing to be replaced, being ground down. This then allows the bridge to be fitted and secured in place. The teeth either side are supporting the artificial tooth that sits in between.
- Resin bonded bridge
Unlike the tooth supported bridge, this does not require any grinding down of perfectly healthy teeth.
It is, however, suitable only for those teeth that don’t have a lot of pressure going through them, like the ones at the front that don’t typically bite into or chew food.
It can function and work better than removable dentures, but is weaker than a fixed bridge and will not last as long, normally lasting approximately 10 years.
- Dentures (partial and complete)
Subject to how many teeth need to be replaced, you can get partial and complete dentures which are removable.
Partial dentures replace just 1 or several teeth, bone and gum.
Not as strong as regular implants, the denture usually sticks to the gum or clips around the existing teeth.
Lasting up to 10 years you can eat and speak normally with a partial denture, but remove it for cleaning and to allow the gum to recover overnight.
For those who need replacement teeth for one or both arches of the mouth, a complete denture is an option. The remaining gum tissue will hold a denture in place by the power of suction or with the help of adhesive.
Modern dentures really do not restrict most wearers in day to day life. They are a cheaper option, and they tend to last 5-10 years on average as your gums will alter over time, meaning a new denture is required for a secure fit.
If you are considering dental implants and you would like to speak with one of our friendly dentists, please call our Camberwell clinic on (03) 9882 5566
At Riversdale Dental we do more than just dental implants, we specialise in all areas of children’s dental, cosmetic dentistry, dentures, crowns, root canal and teeth whitening procedures. Book here for a check up with one our family dentists today.