There are many reasons why a person may want to improve the appearance of their smile, such as having missing, stained or damaged teeth. Cosmetic dentistry encompasses a range of options to make teeth look more attractive, including whitening, repair and replacement.…
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are post-like structures made of titanium and other materials that are surgically placed directly into the jawbone. They act as a secure anchor to support replacement teeth, whether it be a single tooth, multiple teeth, or even a whole set of teeth.
Dental implants are an excellent way of replacing missing teeth. Implants are secure and long-lasting and are designed to blend in with your natural teeth, creating a permanent, stable solution for missing teeth.
If you are self-conscious about your missing teeth, have trouble chewing properly because of missing teeth or uncomfortable dentures, or are about to lose a permanent tooth, dental implants may be the solution you have been looking for. Unlike dentures, implants stay fixed in your mouth and do not move around or need to be taken out at night. Once in place, implants are often secure for life and can give many years of trouble-free service.
Before the procedure
Since a certain amount of healthy bone is needed to support an implant, it is important to evaluate the quantity and quality of remaining bone before planning implant treatment. To do this, your dentist may ask for the following scans to help plan your treatment:
- Moulds of your mouth will be taken to create a plaster cast, which will help the dentist to plan placement sites and angulations for implants. A panoramic X-ray, also called an orthopantogram (OPG), may also be requested, and;
- A computerised tomography (CT) scan or cone beam CT scan (which uses a cone-shaped X-ray beam) may be requested to show a 3D image of the area where the implants might be placed. It also shows the location of any major nerves, sinuses or other structures that need to be avoided.
You may also have to take oral antibiotics and/or a special antibacterial mouthwash preventatively in the days prior to surgery.
During the procedure
The dental implant procedure can vary depending on the number and location of implants. In general, during the procedure a local anaesthetic will be used to numb the implant area (though a general anaesthetic is sometimes used instead). Using a dental drill, the area is then prepared and the implant inserted into the jawbone. Depending on your circumstances, a false tooth will be applied to the implant immediately following placement, or as much as several months after. The false tooth can be in the form of a single crown, a bridge replacing several teeth, or a full denture to replace a whole arch of teeth.
If you are missing more than one tooth, or a whole row of teeth, they can be replaced with two or more dental implants to span across the space. A small number of implants can support a longer bridge or a whole denture in the upper or lower jaw. Not every single tooth needs to be replaced by an individual implant.
Length of procedure
A single tooth implant takes roughly one to two hours in total. Overall, the length of the procedure can vary according to the number of teeth involved, which teeth need to be replaced and whether a tooth needs to be removed first. The number of follow-up visits also differs from person to person.
Despite a high success rate, dental implant surgery carries a risk of complications, including:
- Injury or damage to surrounding structures such as blood vessels, sinuses and nerves;
- Poor wound healing - this is of particular concern for individuals with poorly controlled diabetes, with the implant procedure often delayed until your blood sugars are well controlled;
- Sinus problems - when the dental implants are located in the upper jaw and affect your sinus cavities, and;
- Implant failure - tobacco use is known to impair healing and reduce blood supply to soft tissues. For this reason, smokers and tobacco chewers have an increased risk of complications following implant placement and an increased risk that the implant will not integrate into the jawbone and will ultimately fail. Giving up tobacco use before implant surgery and during the healing period will greatly increase the chances of success. Talk to your dentist or health professional for more information on how to quit smoking.
- Caring for Dental Implants | American Academy of Implant Dentistry | American Academy of Implant Dentistry. Accessed 30 September 2014 from link here
- Cosmetic Dentistry and Implant Prosthodontics at Pi Dental Center. Accessed 30 September 2014 from link here
- Implant Surgery Complications: Etiology and Treatment. Accessed 30 September 2014 from link here
- Thommen Medical / Patients / What is the procedure for dental implant treatment? Accessed 30 September 2014 from link here
FAQ Frequently asked questions
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are false teeth anchored into the mouth with screws made of titanium or other materials. Unlike dentures, implants stay fixed in your mouth.
What are the risks involved with dental implants?
As with any surgery, dental implant surgery carries some risks, including infection, as well as damage to nearby nerves, blood vessels or bone. Despite a high success rate, there is also a possibility the implants will fail, which is more …
How long does the dental implant procedure take?
The length of dental implant surgery varies according to the number of implants and the type of surgery being performed. Your dentist will discuss all the details of your surgery, including the time it will take, with you.
Do I need to do anything before my dental implant procedure?
Before your dental implant procedure, you may need to take antibiotics leading up to your procedure to help prevent infection. Your dentist may also need to take moulds of your teeth and a CT scan before your surgery.
Do I have to do anything after my dental implant procedure?
You take care of dental implants just like you take care of natural teeth. They require brushing, flossing and regular dental check-ups to stay in top shape. You may also need some follow-up dental work after you receive your …
Can children have dental implants?
It is best to wait until a person has turned 18, or has stopped growing, before placing a dental implant. Any bone growth that occurs after the dental implant is placed can alter the position and look of the implant and the false tooth fixed to it.
Do I have to have a general anaesthetic to have dental implants?
Most dental implants can be placed in the dental chair under a local anaesthetic – the same numbing injection you would have for routine fillings. If you are having several implants placed at once, or there is a need to place …