Dental Implants are used as a way to replace missing teeth or to help stabilise dentures. The dental implant procedure has been established for decades, and continuously evolves to improve the predictability of the outcome.
So, what is an implant in dentistry? If you have lost a tooth or several teeth, an implant can be used to replace them. Unlike dentures or bridges, which rely on the gum, or remaining natural teeth for support, implants are placed into the jaw bone. It is important to discuss the particular advantages and drawbacks of each option with your dentist in order to work out the best solution for your particular situation.
Dental implant surgery is performed by experienced dentists who have undergone additional training, oral surgeons and specialist periodontists. Once it has been determined that an implant is appropriate, the planning of its specific location and the end result will occur.
The dental implants procedure can be broken down into phases of assessment, planning, implant placement, healing and restoration. Whilst there is an abundance of options regarding implant components, from the patient’s perspective there are 2 parts. The implant screw, and the crown -or visible tooth- that is placed over the top of it (or the denture which clips over them)
There is no pleasant way to describe dental implant surgery, but the number one point is that effective local anaesthesia is used, and if required you can elect to have the procedure performed under GA (general anaesthetic)
Phases of the dental implant procedure
- Assessment and planning involve starting with the end in mind and the reasons for having an implant in the first place. How does an implant fit in with the rest of your dental needs, and how will you benefit from having one? Is it mainly for aesthetic purposes, or is it to assist with eating? As mentioned, the implant is essentially a screw made of high-quality surgical titanium. Having good quality bone in the correct place, and in the right dimensions for the screw to be placed into is essential. This can be assessed with X-rays or 3D scanning.
- Planning the process may be assisted using computer software but determines the likely size and position of the implant and whether or not bone grafting or augmentation is required. There may also be a situation where an implant can be placed at the same time the failing tooth is removed if it is still in place.
- The placement of the implant is the most important part of the procedure. The first thing to happen will be the use of a local anaesthetic to remove pain and discomfort. Commonly the gum will be lifted away to allow the dentist to see the bone. An implant does look much like a screw but needs to have a series of pilot holes placed, the angulation checked, and if required bone grafting or membranes placed. In the majority of cases during dental implant surgery, the screw will then get covered over as the gum is sutured back into place. Sometimes a small part of this will protrude through the gum, but it is less likely that a tooth will be placed on top of the implant at this stage. The reason is that the implement screw needs to heal and be stable before it can be placed under any chewing load. A partial denture or another device may be used to sit over the gum if there is an aesthetic concern regarding having a missing tooth
- The healing following implants is an important phase of the treatment and the duration can vary in relation to the placement and complexity of the process. Implants that require grafting or placed in questionable bone can be left for up to 6 months before placing the final restoration on top. There can also be the requirement of a second, minor stage of surgery in cases where the implant is buried below the gum. This can help shape the gum that will form around the final crown
- The restoration is the crown or false tooth that sits on top of the implant. It is the final stage of the dental implant procedure and involves screwing on or gluing on the components that replicate an original tooth. In cases of dentures, there are attachment devices that can help anchor them to improve their stability.
Your dentist can give you advice to assist your decision when it comes to dental implants. They are a useful way to replace missing teeth and can be a long-lasting alternative to dentures.