Teeth serve an important role in our daily lives as it affects our speech, our ability to eat well and the way we look. Its loss through disease or trauma sets in motion the loss of underlying bony support resulting in tooth loss. This in turn affects support for our lips and cheek leading to a more aged appearance. Failure to replace missing teeth often leads to the opposing teeth overgrowing and the adjacent teeth tilting resulting in areas of food trapping which in turn may result in gum disease tooth decay.
What are the different ways of replacing missing teeth
Traditionally, missing teeth were replaced by either removable plastic or metal based dentures, or fixed bridges made of either metal alone, or porcelain fused to a metal base. Developments in dental material science have focused on developing more aesthetic materials with adequate strength, such as all-porcelain and zirconia bridges. While all of these are still very much in use today, implant based methods of replacing missing teeth are increasingly preferred as it provides greater biting ability and a more comfortable and natural feel.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are sterile titanium screws which are inserted into the jawbone as artificial roots to support and retain replacement teeth. It comprises 3 parts. The first part or “fixture” is placed within the jaw bone to replace the roots of missing teeth. The second part or “abutment” emerges through the gums and is used to carry the 3rd part, which may be a single crown or a bridge depending on how many teeth are missing. If we have lost all our teeth, we can use 4 to 8 implants in each jaw which when connected can support dentures or even a fixed bridge.
Benefits of Dental Implant
Are permanent replacement for missing teeth
Has predictable and good long-term success rate
Prevents supporting bone from shrinking after tooth loss
Does not decay as it is made from Titanium
Able to generate stronger bite forces for better chewing and hence better digestion and nutrition.
Restores appearance thus creating more confidence and self-esteem Able to provide better support for lips and cheeks for a more youthful look
How do Implants compare with alternative options?
When compared with removable dentures, they provide stronger support, firmer retention and are more stable. The implant supported and retained replacement teeth occupy less space and are more comfortable. They are also able to generate much stronger biting force. When compared with fixed bridges, they can be used even when more teeth are missing as they can provide stronger support over a longer span. They are also preferred when the teeth adjacent to the gap are weak or too small to provide sufficient support. Additionally, they provide an alternative to trimming healthy teeth.
Types of Dental Implant
Dental Implants have been widely used for more than 40 years since the original scientific research was published. While many different implant systems are now available and are generally of high quality, our clinic prefers using implants from Nobelbiocare, Sweden and Straumann, Switzerland due to the extensive research and long track record. These implants come in different sizes and lengths and are generally at least 3.5 mm in diameter and 8 mm in length which differentiates them from “mini-implants” which should be used only as temporary supports or in very specific cases.
Are you suitable for Implants
Implants can be placed in most patients from age 18-80, even if you have lost your teeth for many years as we are able to regenerate bone in order to place implants as a foundation for your denture or bridge. Patients with health conditions should inform the dentist so that additional precautions can be taken, if required. Conditions which require attention include patients with significant heart disease, unstable high blood pressure, uncontrolled diabetes and patients on therapy for cancer. Surgery can still be performed after clearance from your medical specialist.
What is the surgical procedure like?
After giving some local anaesthetic, a small incision is made through the gums and a point of insertion decided. Drills of a predetermined length and with increasing diameters are then used to gently prepare the site to receive the implant. The implant is then rotated to the desired depth. The top of the implant channel is then covered with a temporary cap and the gums stitched either over or across after cleaning the surgical site and allowed to heal undisturbed for 3-4 months. A higher temporary cap called a healing abutment is often placed to avoid a second surgery to uncover the implant.
Is Implant Surgery Painful?
No, implant surgery is generally a minimally invasive procedure and in most instances the pain is minimal. If more major treatment is required, some post-surgical pain may be present. If you are fearful, we can arrange for you to have a complete pain-free experience either by performing the procedure under intravenous sedation or general anaesthesia within an operating theatre. The mix of drugs given will help you relax, sleep and eliminate pain. You will also usually be given a painkiller to take before the procedure so that you will be comfortable after the surgery.
How long does it take to recover from the Surgery?
After the operation, you may feel uncomfortable but this can be eliminated by taking the prescribed painkillers regularly. Some swelling and bruising is to be expected for a few days after the surgery. You can resume normal activity within a day but should avoid strenuous exercise and swimming. A normal or soft diet is advised and can be commenced after the numbness from the local anaesthesia wears off, usually around 2-3 hours after the procedure to avoid biting your lip or tongue inadvertently.