Prosthodontics

Dental Implants

Introduction to Dental Implants

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root in the form of metal posts or frames that are placed into the jawbone. The term ‘implant’ does not describe the complete replacement tooth and only refers to the implants consisting of metal posts or frames that are inserted into the jaw bone.

Written by Doctify Team 29/05/2020

What are dental implants?

A dental implant is an artificial tooth root in the form of metal posts or frames that are placed into the jawbone. The term ‘implant’ does not describe the complete replacement tooth and only refers to the implants consisting of metal posts or frames that are inserted into the jaw bone.

Are dental implants safe?

Dental implants are biocompatible and will not react with your jawbone as it grows around them. As well as being extremely safe, dental implants help to prevent future bone loss by stimulating and supporting the jaw bone.

What are dental implants made of?

Dental implants can be made from:

Titanium alloys, this type of metal has the longest track record and is the most popular metal used for dental implants. They have a separate tooth (abutment) that can be removed and replaced if it is damaged after being fitted.

Zirconia, this material is classed as ceramic, although it does contain traces of metal to increase its strength and durability. They have not been used for as long as titanium alloys and normally do not have the advantage of a separate tooth (abutment).

Ceramics and polymer-based dental implants are also available. They are not considered as strong and stable as titanium alloy or zirconia-based dental implants.  

Who can have dental implants?

Dental implants require:

  • Healthy gums
  • Adequate jaw bone consistency/strength

Who shouldn’t have dental implants?

Certain oral health conditions will require treatment prior to having dental implants. Occasionally when there is severe jawbone loss, dental implants are not a feasible option. 

Should a dentist or oral surgeon fit dental implants?

Dentists can undertake specialist training in the fitting of dental implants and they can be safely fitted in a dental clinic.

Oral surgeons may need to perform bone grafts or other types of surgery prior to having dental implants fitted. This surgery will take place as an outpatient in a hospital. Oral surgeons may also fit the implants however, it is more likely you would then go to a specially trained dentist, once healing is complete.

What are the different types of dental implants? 

Dental implants will normally be either endosteal, subperiosteal, and zygomatic.

Endosteal Implants are the most often used dental implants and are normally made from titanium. They are surgically implanted directly into the jawbone and the teeth are fitted at a later date, during a separate procedure. To ensure the posts fuse and provide a secure base for the fake teeth it is necessary to have sufficient healthy jawbone.

Subperiosteal Implants are another option when there is a lack of healthy jawbone. They are made from a metal frame that is placed on top of the jawbone under the gums. The gums then heal around the frame to secure it in place. The posts erupt through the gum for the fake teeth to be attached to.

Zygomatic Implants are more complicated than other types of implants. The implants are surgically implanted into the cheekbone instead of the jawbone, making them an alternative for patients, when there is not sufficient jawbone to support an endosteal implant.

Alternative types of dental implants include:

Immediate load dental implants, enable the dentist to place a temporary fake tooth onto the implant, during the same procedure.

Mini or narrow dental implants (MDIs) are implants with a narrow diameter which makes it possible to use less invasive techniques to place them in patients with a lack of jawbone density. They may also be used to support a lower denture rather than actually providing a base for permanent fake teeth.

All-On-4 refers to the placement of four dental implants as an alternative to having a full top or bottom arch of dental implants. Temporary fake teeth are fitted onto the implant, during the same procedure These implants normally take around 6 months for the gums to heal before permanent fake teeth can be fitted onto them.

dental implants

What are the alternative techniques for fitting dental implants?

Alternative techniques have been developed for patients that have a lack of jawbone density and strength. They help to restore the jawbone to make it stronger and more stable

Bone augmentation is a process that involves strengthening the jawbone when it is lacking density.

Sinus augmentation, lift or elevation is a process that involves adding bone below the sinus

Ridge expansion is a process that involves creating a small ridge on the top of the jaw. Bone grafts are added into the ridge to create a wider base to support dental implants when the jaw was previously too small.

Why would I have dental implants?

Dental implants offer a permanent alternative to bridges or dentures. Unlike bridges, dental implants do not require adjacent teeth to be filed down and once healed dental implants will feel and look the same as your other natural teeth. Unlike dentures, dental implants will not affect your speech or fall out during eating or talking.

What happens during a dental implant consultation?

Prior to agreeing to fit dental implants, your dentist will take x-rays of your teeth and jawbone. Your dentist might also refer you to an oral surgeon, you may have a computed tomography (CT) scan if there are concerns raised about the health of your jawbone to provide a more detailed image of your oral structure. 

Your dentist or oral surgeon will discuss if bone grafts are necessary and explain the options that are most suitable for your individual bone density and requirements. You will discuss if you want to have sedation during the fitting of your dental implants.

A treatment plan if required will be discussed to treat gum disease and plan appointments for any fillings or necessary dental work that needs to be carried out, to get your mouth as healthy as possible prior to fitting dental implants.

How many dental implants can I have fitted in one procedure?

You can have multiple dental implants fitted in one surgical procedure, you can also choose to have dental implants combined with a bridge or dentures.

Do dental implants look or feel different from natural teeth?

Dental implants look exactly the same as natural teeth and will be colour matched to blend in seamlessly with your own teeth. Once healed they will feel the same as your natural teeth and have the same functionality.

What happens during the dental implant surgical procedure?

Local anaesthetic is normally used to fit dental implants, ‘twilight’ sedation may be provided if you are very nervous to keep you calm during the procedure. General anaesthesia may be recommended for particularly complicated cases that require bone grafts or multiple implants.

When a hole is required to accommodate the implant post or screw, the gum or cheek tissue is then stitched over the post using dissolvable stitches. When possible, the fake tooth is then secured into the implant and either a temporary or permanent crown is fitted.

When the implant needs to fuse with the jaw bone, in a process called osseointegration, a protective cover screw is placed on top of the gum or cheek tissue to aid healing. Osseointegration can take between 4 and 6 months before you are able to have a permanent fake tooth (abutment) and crown fitted. This involves a second surgical procedure with local anaesthetic to cut open the gum to secure the abutment into the dental implant post or screw. After approximately 2 weeks the tissue will have healed and a permanent crown can be fitted to complete the artificial tooth and make it indistinguishable from your other natural teeth.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is shutterstock_1179164752-1.jpg

Are dental implants painful?

Dental implants can feel uncomfortable until they have healed and the gum or cheek tissue will be sore and inflamed for up to a week after surgery. Pain can be managed sufficiently with pain killers.

How long is recovery after dental implants?

There is likely to be some minor bleeding from the incision sites and bruising and swelling in your gums and face. Stitches will be dissolvable and your mouth will feel sore and you should wait between 5 and 7 days before eating solid food, after having dental implants fitted. 

When can I and how do I brush my teeth after dental implants?

It is essential to clean your teeth diligently, preferably after eating but at a minimum once in the morning and once before you go to sleep. Flossing is very important and your dentist may recommend you use a water flosser after having dental implants.

Can you smoke with dental implants?

Smoking is strongly advised against after having dental implants as it is related to high rates of dental implant failure when the post or screw does not fuse with the jaw bone, a process called osseointegration. 

How should I protect my dental implants?

Dental implants can be damaged by impact and it is important to have a custom made mouthguard to wear during any activity that could result in some kind of impact on your teeth, such as horse riding, skiing or contact sports.

Are dental implants permanent?

Dental implants are designed to be permanent and when meticulous dental hygiene is maintained dental implants will more than likely last for the rest of your life. When a crown over the fake tooth breaks it can be replaced and if the implant is damaged then it is possible to fit a new implant beside the damaged one without needing to remove it.   

Can I get gum disease with dental implants?

When dental hygiene is not maintained gum disease and other oral health problems can develop with dental implants in the same way they would with natural teeth.

How often do I need to go to the dentist with dental implants?

You should have dental check-ups every 6 months for the rest of your life after having dental implants.

What are the risks and complications of dental implant surgery?

  • Infection
  • Failure of the implant to fuse with the jaw bone, in a process called osseointegration
  • Damage to surrounding teeth
  • Damage to the gums

What questions should I ask before having dental implants?

  • How long have you been fitting implants?
  • What type of implants do you recommend and why?
  • How many appointments will I need for necessary dental treatments, work prior to having dental implants fitted?
  • What diagnostic tests will be used to evaluate my jaw bone and the placement options for dental implants?
  • When will I get a treatment plan outlining the recommended dental implants, proposed procedure and aftercare provided?
  • What is the total cost of the treatment and how long is aftercare included?

Find out more about other relative procedures:

Summary
  • Dental implants will normally be either endosteal, subperiosteal, and zygomatic.
  • Dental implants are biocompatible and will not react with your jawbone as it grows around them.
  • Dental implants help to prevent future bone loss by stimulating and supporting the jaw bone.
Loading profiles near to your current location…