What are implants?
Dental implants are usually made of titanium and have an internal screw called an abutment that holds a false tooth (or teeth) in place. After the implant is fitted, the bone surrounding it gradually grows and attaches to the implant, holding it firmly in place.
A single dental implant can support one, or several replacement teeth. Implants can also be used to support a full or partial set of dentures. Your dentist will carefully assess how many implants are needed in your circumstance.
The Dental Implant Process
The process of having dental implants can vary quite a lot, so you need to discuss with your dentist what will happen in your case. The whole process of getting dental implants can take several months and involves one or more surgical procedures.
Having dental implants typically involves several stages:
Placement of the implant into your jaw and attachment of the abutment (which holds the false teeth in place) to the implant. This will be a one- or two-stage procedure.
Fusion of your new implant with the surrounding bone, which can take from six weeks to six months. You may be offered temporary artificial teeth (denture) to wear over this period.
Construction and fitting of your new artificial teeth onto your implants.
There are two other stages which may be involved in your dental implant treatment:
Tooth extraction (removal). If you have a problem with one of your teeth, the plan may be to
remove the tooth and replace it with an implant. If that’s the case, your dentist will explain
how this may affect the process and timescale of your treatment.
Bone grafting. If you don’t have enough bone in your jaw to support your dental implant,
your dentist can add new bone. This comes from elsewhere in your body, or can be from an
Can anyone have Dental Implants?
Dental implants are suitable for most adults who are in good general health and have healthy gums. They aren’t suitable for children and young people under 18 because the underlying bones are still growing.
Your dentist may not recommend dental implants if you:
are a smoker
have had radiotherapy to your jaw area
have diabetes which isn’t well-controlled
have gum (periodontal) disease
However, each case is different. Tell your dentist about any medical problems you have, and they’ll let you know if implants are an option for you.
Are there alternative options to dental implants?
Alternatives to dental implants include:
removable dentures (false teeth) – plastic or metal frameworks that hold one or more false teeth
a bridge – false teeth that are fixed onto the natural teeth on either side of the missing one
Preparing for the dental implant
If you decide to go ahead with implants, you’ll have some X-rays. This is so your dentist can check the amount of bone in your jaw and how healthy it is. X-rays also show the position of other structures in your jawbone, such as your nerves. You may need to have a CT scan if the X-rays don’t provide enough information. Your dentist will use the images from these tests to decide where it’s best to place the implant.
If you smoke, your dentist will probably strongly encourage you to stop smoking for good. Smoking can make it less likely that your dental implants will be a success.
The process of having dental implants will involve one or more surgical procedures. Ask your dentist beforehand whether you’ll need to arrange for someone else to take you home afterwards.
Your dentist will talk to you about what will happen before, during, and after the procedure, and any pain you might have. It’s really important that you understand what to expect so you can decide whether to go ahead. Your dentist should go through the risks as well as the benefits. Think about any questions you want to ask – maybe write them down in advance so you don’t forget. You’re free to change your mind about having the procedure. If you decide to go ahead, you’ll be asked to sign a consent form.
What happens during the dental implant placement procedure?
The site where the implant will be placed will be numbed with an injection of local anaesthetic.
Your surgeon will be able to tell you how long your procedure is expected to take. It may range from 30 minutes for a single implant to several hours for multiple ones.
Once the anaesthetic has taken effect, your surgeon will make a cut in your gum and drill a small hole in your jawbone. The implant will fit into this hole.
Once the implant has been placed then the gum can be sutured back together. This area may feel sore for a few days but painkillers can help with any discomfort. The sutures will naturally dissolve on their own.
The implant will be left alone for 2-3 months to allow for healing and integration of the implant.
What to expect after having the dental implant placed?
After your dental implant has been fitted, you may need to rest until the effects of the anaesthetic have passed. You can usually go home as soon as you feel ready.
It can take several hours before the feeling comes back into your mouth after a local anaesthetic. Until it does, be careful if you have any hot food or drinks. It’s probably best to wait until the feeling has returned to your mouth; otherwise, you might burn yourself without realising.
You may wish to take some over-the-counter pain relief medicines to help with any discomfort as the anaesthetic wears off.
Your surgeon will give you instructions on how to care for your mouth and teeth when you first go home after you have had the surgery.
Side Effects of dental implant surgery
Side-effects are the unwanted but mostly temporary affects you may get after having the procedure.
You may have some swelling and discomfort around the implant area. You can take an over-the- counter painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen to help with this. Always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medicine and if you have any questions, ask your pharmacist or dentist for advice.
If you have pain which is more severe than this, is increasing or does not ease after a few days then please contact the surgery.
Complications of having dental implant surgery
Complications are when problems occur during or after the procedure. The possible complications of any procedure include an unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic, infection or excessive bleeding.
Complications that can happen after having dental implant surgery include the following:
Nerve damage. You have nerves which come from your lower jaw, lower teeth and gums, and your bottom lip. If these nerves are damaged by the implant, you may feel tingling or numbness. It may also be painful. These feelings may go away, or they may be permanent. X-rays and CT scans before the procedure help your dentist see the position of these nerves in your jawbone so they can avoid them.
Attaching Replacement teeth to the implant
The surgeon will review the implant to make sure it has fully healed and integrated into the bone and can check this by taking x-rays.
The first appointment for making the replacement teeth will be to take impressions of the upper and lower jaw which will be sent off to the lab. A dental technician, working closely with your surgeon, will construct your new artificial tooth (or teeth). The process from taking the impressions to fitting the artificial tooth or teeth will normally take about 4 weeks.
Your final new tooth or teeth will be fixed in place by the surgeon. The bite is then checked and adjusted as necessary to make sure it feels comfortable when you bite together.
The surgeon will normally review the implant 6 months after this appointment to see how you are getting on and to check the implant.