What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a small prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. Natural teeth consist of the crown and the root. The crown is the visible section that is covered with white enamel. Supporting the crown is the tooth root which extends into the jawbone. The root is the part of the tooth that is effectively replaced by an implant.
A dental implant commonly has three parts. First, the implant device itself, which is inserted directly into the bone. Second, the abutment; the piece that connects the implant device to the third part; the overlying crown. With several implants a whole set of teeth can be replaced.
Today’s implants are predominantly made of titanium, a bio-compatible metal that offers strength and durability as well as a unique property that allows it to fuse directly to bone in a process known as ‘osseointegration’.
What is osseointegration?
Dental implants work by a process known as osseointegration, which occurs when bone cells attach themselves directly to the titanium surface, essentially locking the implant into the jaw bone.
What is an osseointegrated implant?
Osseointegrated implants, including All-on-4® implants, can be used to support prosthetic tooth replacements of various designs and functionality, replacing anything from a single missing tooth to a full arch of all upper and/or lower jaw teeth. The replacement teeth are made to match your natural enamel colour which offers you a completely natural appearance and a whole new smile.
Is it important to replace my missing teeth?
Yes. Teeth play a vital role in your life. An increasing number of studies link your oral health to your overall general health.
Every tooth has a blood supply and is fixed to your jaw by a series of tiny ligaments. When you’re missing even one tooth, changes can occur in your jaw and the opposing teeth.
In the absence of teeth, your jawbone is not stimulated during chewing and the bone will resorb and shrink away. The opposing tooth will project out, eventually loosen and fall out.
The more teeth you lose, the more bone loss that occurs. Subsequently, this can affect the look of your face, leading to a drawn out and aged appearance.
What’s the overall success of dental implants?
Despite decades of clinical and scientific research, dental implants do not have a 100% success rate. However, the number of successful treatments has improved dramatically since the introduction of dental implant surgery. The dental profession can proudly report success rates well above 90% for most dental implant patients. Similarly, long-term success rates are in the high 90% range and are also improving.
Why are dental implants considered the optimal choice for replacing teeth?
Dental implants have several advantages over alternatives like bridges or dentures. Dental implants are permanently fixed to your jaw and act independently, that is, they don’t rely on your existing teeth for support. Dental implants do not require the filing down of your neighbouring natural teeth for support, the way bridges do. Also, dental implants don’t have to be removed after eating to clean, the way dentures are.
What happens when a dental implant does not osseointegrate?
When your dental implant has not successfully integrated, it may need to be removed because it cannot easily be ‘converted’ or ‘stimulated’ to osseointegrate. Our dentists will give you the best advice about what can be done if this happens.
A replacement implant can be placed but some months of healing time and possibly bone augmentation may be required. Bone augmentation is a preliminary procedure to repair the implant site by means of bone grafting.
Likewise, if a previously placed implant has lost significant amounts of supporting bone, there are currently no treatments that can predictably restore your lost bone after the implant has been in function in your mouth.
How long do dental implants take to heal?
Healing times for implants vary depending on the quality of the patient’s bone. Healing often takes longer in cases when extra procedures are necessary. In general, dental implants require three to six months for your bone to heal, that is, without being exposed to extra biting forces.
Research to understand how bone attaches to titanium has improved the healing process, leading some implant manufacturers to claim short healing times for their products, but this is generally not the norm. In recent years, research has demonstrated that in certain controlled circumstances, dentists can immediately connect prosthetic teeth to implants, known as loading, either the same day or shortly after the implants have been placed.
While this is becoming more common, most cases require a healing period of two to four months before the prosthetic restoration can be finalised.
How are dental implants placed?
Most dental implant surgical procedures are performed at the rooms of Face & Smile and occasionally in a hospital setting. Local anaesthesia is adequate for most implant procedures. However, for cases requiring multiple or complex implants, or for highly anxious patients, we use intravenous sedation or sleep dentistry performed by a qualified sedationist/anaesthetist.
Additional surgical procedures, such as bone grafting, may be performed separately or at the same time as implant placement. Each surgical procedure is different depending on the clinical situation, patient preferences and our dentist’s professional recommendations.
Are dental implants for me?
Most likely, if you’re reading this, you or someone you know has lost teeth. Whether lost by accident, disease or decay, dental implants are an excellent tooth replacement option for nearly everyone.
Dental implants can be used when:
- A single tooth is missing — instead of using a bridge
- Several teeth are missing — instead of using bridges or partial dentures
- All teeth are missing — instead of wearing dentures
Dental implants are strong and stable and allow you to eat most foods, depending on the type of implant restoration. Dental implants look, and generally feel, like your own natural teeth. Most importantly, they give you back your smile!
Am I a suitable candidate for dental implants?
If you feel that dental implants could be a viable option for you, please contact Face & Smile to schedule your oral examination.
It’s unacceptable for us to proceed with implant treatment if you have areas of untreated disease of teeth, gums or bone. These concerns can affect the success of your implant surgery as well as the integration and maintenance of the implant itself.
Therefore, a thorough full-mouth examination, including teeth and gums, will be performed. Dr Johnston will also assess your bite or ‘occlusion’, which is vital to the success of your implant restoration.
How do implants improve the lives of people who’ve lost, or are close to losing, all their teeth?
Unlike dentures, dental implants are supported by the bone, not the gum tissues. This means when you chew on an implant-supported bridge (instead of a denture) you distribute the forces throughout your jawbone. This stimulation of your bone slows or even stops the resorption (loss of bone). Implants functioning with replacement teeth often restore up to 90% of the chewing force of natural teeth..