For many years, the main options available for replacing missing teeth were either dentures or a dental bridge, and whilst both of these methods satisfied aesthetic and functional criteria, they potentially lacked in other areas such as stability, longevity and comfort.
At Roland and Tollett Dental Practices in St John's Wood, we are pleased to offer our patients a modern alternative which has many advantages over bridges and dentures, in the form of dental implants. We have a visiting specialist dentists, who is an extremely skilled and experienced surgeon and who limits his practice entirely to placing implants.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are effectively artificial tooth roots which are made from titanium. The implant is positioned in the jaw by means of a minor oral surgical procedure. It is then left to bond with the bone in a process known as osseointegration, forming an extremely solid foundation to support a dental crown. Although other materials will bond to bone, very pure titanium is the best and most reliable material for this particular purpose.
Implants may be placed individually or in multiples depending on the number of missing teeth, An entire jaw can be restored, sometimes with only 4 implants. This is known as the All on 4 Technique and can often be undertaken over the course of just one day.
When the implant has integrated securely, usually after a period of around three or four months, a very high precision support collar called an abutment is attached followed by a dental crown, resulting in a natural looking and extremely strong replacement tooth.
The only alternatives to a dental implant are either to simply leave a gap in the teeth, to use a denture or to use a dental bridge.
Dental implants have a number of advantages over other methods for replacing teeth including the following:
- Implants are extremely strong and stable and will not move around in the mouth. Dentures, on the other hand, have a habit of becoming unstable and may cause wearers to eliminate certain foods that are difficult to eat, from their diet. Dentures may also cause the gums and underlying jaw bone to recede, whilst implants actually maintain and support the gum and bone.
- Fitting a bridge involves the reshaping of otherwise healthy teeth either side of the gap in order to attach the crowns. This may in some circumstances shorten their natural lifespan.
How long does a dental implant take to work?
This will depend on any prior work that may need to be done before the implant is placed. Some patients who have significant bone loss in the area where the implant is required, may need a bone graft prior to the implant procedure.
The fusing period (osseointegration) usually takes around four to six month for upper jaw implants and between three and four months for lower jaw implants. In addition to this, impressions are needed in order to design and manufacture the crowns to attach to the implant. This typically takes around two weeks.
How successful are dental implants?
Dental implants have an extremely high success rate but in the few cases where they do fail, this is primarily because of poor oral care on the part of the patient. We will advise you of how to keep the area clean and generally look after your new implant once it has been placed. It is important to remember that these first few months are critical for the long term health of your dental implants.
Is the procedure uncomfortable?
Placing a dental implant is generally a minor surgical procedure but is performed using a powerful local anaesthetic, so any pain will be minimised. Intravenous sedation, administered by a consultant anaesthetist/sedationist can be arranged if you feel you would like to be put into a more relaxed and comfortable state and be mostly unaware of the processes happening around you.
Patients often remark how surprised they were at the small amount of discomfort involved, with many saying it was no more uncomfortable than other dental procedures. So it is certainly not to be feared. Naturally, you should expect some soreness and possibly some localised swelling and bruising for a short period following the procedure, but this should be manageable with a regular painkiller.
Are dental implants expensive?
Because of the costly materials involved plus the additional years of training need to perform implant placement, it would be untrue to describe this as a cheap procedure. However, we do have dental plans available to help you spread the cost and, as an implant can potentially last for twenty years or even more, it actually works out relatively inexpensive over time.
If you have a missing tooth, or teeth, or are simply unhappy with an unstable denture, we invite you to call Roland and Tollett Dental Practices on 0207 722 8995 to arrange an appointment to see if implants are a suitable treatment for you. We will be pleased to discuss the options and considerable benefits with you.