What are they?
Dental implants are one of the treatment options for missing teeth replacement. During the last 30 years, and thanks to rapid developments in dental materials, techniques and research, what was once an unapproachable and unexplored procedure, has now become the golden standard when it comes to teeth replacement.
Simply speaking, you can think of a dental implant as a plug that we place in the wall, in order to hang something. Very similarly to this, a dental implant consists of three parts:
- The actual implant body that plays the part of the plug and is placed in the bone
- The screw that goes in it
- The tooth that attaches to the screw, similarly (but a lot more securely!) to a frame or mirror on the wall.
Most implants today are made of Titanium, Zirconium, or a combination. Both these materials have proven to be extremely biocompatible, meaning that your body will most likely see them as friends, rather than an outsider that needs to go away. Their biocompatibility is such that your bone quickly grows around them securing them in place. The chances of your body rejecting them are extremely low, and most implant failures are because of poor treatment planning, very poor oral hygiene, smoking and systemic metabolic diseases such as uncontrolled diabetes and bone diseases.
As the support for a dental implant comes from the bone, it is essential that there is adequate bone volume in order to be able to successfully place an implant. However, very often the gap to be restored has stayed in the mouth for a long time, leading to a decrease in bone volume. Other reasons for an inadequate amount of bone involve smoking, gum disease, diabetes, or even a poorly executed extraction of the tooth. In those cases and depending on the size of the bone defect, in order to place an implant we will need to increase the amount of available bone. This is achieved by bone grafting procedures, where additional bone is added in the area either before implant placement or simultaneously. The additional bone will act as a scaffolding for your own bone to grow into, and will eventually be dissolved and fully replaced by your own bone.
This bone grafting material can come from a variety of sources, mainly animal, human or artificially made. Although real bone of animal or human origin is generally preferred due to better incorporation in your own bone, if you have any dietary, religious, cultural or other reasons for not using it, we can always offer the option of artificially made bone.
Having a dental implant may be a time consuming process, but it outweighs any other options for restoring a gap in your mouth. So when you ask yourself ‘Why to have a dental implant?’ consider the following facts:
- Dental implants are a fixed restoration. That means that they stay in your mouth and you don’t have to take them out at nights as you would with a denture.
- They restore not only your missing tooth but the bone and gums around it as well. As time goes by the bone and gums shrink where a tooth has been removed, leaving an unsightly ‘dip’ in your gum contour which no bridge can restore, making any other restoration look fake.
- If properly executed and taken care for, dental implants can last for a lifetime. Of course, the crown on top of them may at some point need replacement like any other crown due to tear and wear, but the foundation of this restoration which is the implant itself will remain intact for many years to come.
- When having a bridge, healthy teeth adjacent to your gap will need to be drilled and compromised in order to support the restoration. This may eventually lead to death of the teeth nerve, the need for root canal treatments, or decay. With dental implants there is no need to sacrifice any healthy tooth structure.
- They look good! There is no other restoration that would look better than a dental implant if planned correctly. Sometimes it’s hard to distinguish between natural teeth and implants!
- Implants can make your dentures stay in place. Even if, for whatever reason, you can’t or you don’t want to have a full fixed implant restoration, having some implants to support your dentures will make a massive difference to the quality of your life as they will be as stable as fixed teeth.
For a dental implant to be successful, it is essential that there is a robust, detailed and very well executed treatment planning procedure. This would include photographs, measurements, study models, radiographs, and sometimes special mouth CT scans, so we ensure that all anatomical, functional, aesthetic and medical considerations have been taken into account. Our qualified implantologist will guide you through the process of having a dental implant step by step, from the day of the consultation, until your implant is finally restored with a beautiful and functional tooth.
After a detailed examination and thorough treatment planning, the dental implant will be inserted into your jawbone under local anaesthetic, in a surgical procedure, not much unlike a ‘reversed’ tooth extraction! Additional bone grafting may be added at the same time if needed and your gums will be stitched back together. Some degree of discomfort and swelling may occur within the first couple of days after the surgery but nothing that cannot be adequately dealt with by common over-the-counter painkillers. We can confidently guarantee that the whole procedure is totally pain free!
The dental implant will be left to heal in your jawbone for an average period of about three months, in order for the bone to grow around it and secure it in place. A second much quicker and simpler procedure will then take place, again under local anaesthetic, where the surgeon will expose the implant and place a longer screw inside which will slightly stick out from your gums. This will help the gums heal and grow in a way that will resemble a tooth emerging through the gums.
Around 4 weeks later, impressions will be taken and the lab will construct the crown that will go over your implant. Once this restoration is ready it will be fitted onto your implant and final adjustments will be made. Apart from single crowns, dental implants can also support bridges and even dentures, depending on your individual needs!
Before fitting the final crown, some cases may require a further soft tissue adjustment, in order for the gum line around your implants to look better and more similar to your natural teeth. In such cases, a temporary crown may need to be fitted first in order to manipulate the soft tissues accordingly and the final crown will be fitted once we have reached the desired aesthetic result. In more demanding cases, the dentist may recommend an additional optional cosmetic gum procedure, which will improve drastically the appearance of your gums around your implant and subsequently your implant itself.
After the implant has been restored, you will not be left to your own devices! Regular annual reviews will take place, to monitor the condition of the bone around the implant and the general state of the implant restoration, so we ensure its longevity and success.