When it comes to dealing with a missing or irreparable tooth, nothing comes close to a dental implant. Predictable, reliable, and long-lived, they’re the closest thing to a real tooth you could hope to get. Whatever metric you judge them on, be it aesthetics, functionality, or even overall health benefits, dental implants are the gold standard.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a titanium screw that is placed into the void left in the jaw by a missing or extracted tooth. Effectively, a dental implant acts as an artificial tooth root.
This part is really stage one of a three-stage process. Once the implant has settled, it’s then fit with a connector, called an abutment, on which a prosthetic can be placed. This might be a single dental crown to replace a single tooth, or could even be a whole denture supported on four or more implants.
What Are the Benefits?
There are many benefits to dental implants. Here are the three major ones:
Firstly, there’s the issue of supporting our jaw and face. Our bodies are constantly changing. Hour to hour, day to day, new cells are grown, die and get reabsorbed.
When we lose a tooth, be it by accident, disease, or extraction, we leave a hole in our jaws where the tooth root used to be. Over time that hole will collapse, and reshape the jaw and gum around it. Teeth on either side of the tooth can “tip” to fill the gap, which creates a host of new issues.
Getting a dental implant helps maintain the volume and integrity of our jaw bones. Without them, we can lose bone volume and seriously affect our ability to eat, chew, and speak.
Secondly, there’s the restored functionality of having a tooth. When we lose a tooth, we start putting more strain on the opposite side of the mouth. This can put excess pressure on that side, which will eventually result in more problems.
Replacing a missing tooth with an implant allows you to eat, speak, and chew completely normally.
And last — but not least — the effectiveness of the treatment itself. Dental implants have a remarkably low failure rate of around two percent or less over twenty years. They’re predictable, reliable, and exceptionally long-lived. If sufficient care is taken of the implant, it can literally last the rest of your life.
What’s the Procedure Like?
Firstly, the tooth needing to be replaced needs to be extracted if it hasn’t been already.
Secondly, the implant is inserted into the jaw where the tooth root used to be. The gum is then sewed shut over the top.
The implant is then left in the jaw for several months to allow the bone to grow around it and fuse it in place. Exactly how long this takes will vary from patient to patient.
Thirdly, the gum is re-opened and an attachment known as an abutment is connected to the implant.
This abutment allows for the final stage, where a prosthetic gets attached to the implant and completes the process. When replacing a single tooth, this means placing a single crown onto the abutment.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dental Implants
There are a lot of questions patients have when it comes to Dental Implants. Here we hope to answer some of the most common.
Who Can Get Dental Implants?
Almost anyone who’s missing a tooth and has a healthy mouth. There’s no real upper age limit. Patients into their 80s and 90s have successfully received dental implants.
Obviously, they’re not generally considered necessary for young children before they have their permanent teeth.
Who Can’t Get Dental Implants?
There are some contra-indicators to getting dental implants.
Patients with severe periodontitis — gum disease — aren’t eligible. There must also be sufficient bone volume to support the implant. Patients who have been missing teeth too long and have lost bone volume therefor aren’t good candidates.
Smoking will preclude you from receiving dental implants. Smoking greatly increases the risk of gum diseases which can cause serious issues with surgical oral procedures like implants.
Various health issues that would otherwise put you at risk during a surgical procedure may also be a factor. Consult your dentist if you’re unsure.
Is There Anything That Can Be Done If I Don’t Have Enough Bone Volume?
Bone grafting and bone augmentation are sometimes options to increase the jaw bone volume to a sufficient level. If you don’t have enough bone volume for an implant, your dentist or surgeon will assess if you’re a suitable candidate for either procedure.
Why Are Implants Made Out of Titanium?
There are two main reasons for using titanium for dental implants. The first is that it’s a biocompatible metal. What that means is that the body won’t produce an immune reaction and try to reject the implant. Bone, gum, nerves and tissues will readily fuse to the titanium like any other part of the body.
Secondly, titanium is a very durable metal which ensures the longevity of the implant.
Is It Painful?
Dental implants are a full surgical procedure. You’ll be under general anaesthetic for the actual implant phase. Afterwards, you will notice some discomfort which can be quite severe. This is managed with prescription medication. After the second day, discomfort will subside substantially, and any further pain can generally be managed with weaker medicines.
Bruising, swelling, and some bleeding are normal immediately following the procedure, but quickly subside.
Discomfort and pain will be more severe if multiple implants are placed at the same time.
How Many Visits Are Needed?
The exact number of visits you need to make to get the full dental implant procedure will vary from patient to patient. Generally, it can be done in as few as two. Some particularly difficult cases may require more visits spread out over a few months.
How Long Do Implants Last?
The failure rate for implants is less than two percent over about 15-20 years. If proper care and oral hygiene aren’t observed, the chance of failure will increase.
How Much Do Implants Cost?
The cost of dental implants will depend on several factors, such as how many implants are being done, whether grafting is needed, and whether it’s a simple or complex case. You can expect to pay several thousand dollars as a minimum.