Implants

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Dental implants - Introduction

What is a dental implant? A dental implant is an artificial replacement for a tooth root, usually made from titanium. There are many different implant systems available and when competently used they all deliver a highly reliable form of treatment. The main aim during the placement of any implant is to achieve immediate close contact with the surrounding bone. Over time further growth of bone onto the implant surface enhances the stability of the implant. In order to support replacement teeth, dental implants normally have some form of internal screw thread or post space that allows a variety of components to be fitted. Once fitted, these components provide the foundation for long-term support of crowns, bridges or dentures. Who is suitable for dental implants? Dental implants are suitable for most adults with good general health. They can only be used once the jawbone has stopped growing and so generally are not used with younger patients. Habits such as heavy drinking or smoking can increase the number of problems associated with initial healing and thereafter may be bad for the long-term health of gum and bone surrounding each implant. Some dentists will decline to place implants if smoking cannot be reduced or given up altogether. However, each case is different and if you do have any medical problems then speak to your doctor or dentist prior to starting any treatment – it is only in some circumstances that health problems prevent the use of dental implants altogether.

An overview of the implant process 

Implant treatment normally involves several stages that take place over a period of time from three to nine months. Although there are various implant treatment methods, a typical process often includes:

  • Assessment and treatment planning:
    At initial consultation, following full discussion of all possible alternatives, the dentist will assess the feasibility of providing implant treatment. X-rays will be taken and models of the teeth prepared. A written treatment plan will then be formulated detailing the sequence of treatment and associated costs.
  • Implant placement:
    Implant placement is a relatively simple minor surgical procedure that can be performed under sterile conditions in a dental surgery. The treatment is performed under local anaesthesia with sedation if required. If, during assessment, the underlying bone is deemed deficient, a number of options are available for bone regeneration. Bone regeneration is carried out prior to or at the same time as implant placement depending on requirements.
  • Integration period:
    Implants can take from six weeks to six months to fuse with the patient’s bone. During this integration period, temporary dentures or bridgework can be worn as appropriate. In some cases, temporary teeth can be fixed to the implants while they integrate in a process known as ‘immediate loading’.
  • The restorative phase:
    Once integrated, the implants can be brought into function with a variety of new teeth options (definitive restorations) ranging from a single crown, small or large bridge or a removable overdenture. A dental technician who works closely with the dental surgeon constructs these definitive restorations.
  • Maintenance:
    Following completion of implant treatment, the patient must regularly and thoroughly clean the new teeth (restorations) as instructed by their dentist. A dental hygienist may also advise on care and maintenance of the restorations and natural teeth. Regular visits to your dentist are essential so that the health of the soft tissue, bone levels and the integrity of the restoration can be reviewed.

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