You can lose a tooth, or several teeth, for all sorts of reasons including sports accidents, injury, decay, gum disease, and old age.
For both functional and aesthetic reasons, you will probably want to replace that tooth instead of leaving a gap, and this can be done quite easily with teeth implants (also known as dental implants).
The most common way of replacing missing teeth is via dentures or a fixed bridge, but teeth implants are becoming more routine and have some advantages over other methods.
This article on teeth implants is written by Jackie Griffiths, a freelance journalist who writes health, medical, biological, and pharmaceutical articles for national and international journals, newsletters and web sites.
A dental implant is a small titanium rod that’s fixed into the jaw bone ready to receive the replacement tooth. The tooth is then screwed or clipped permanently onto it without the need for support from the neighbouring teeth. One implant is able to support one or two false teeth.
If you’ve had difficulty chewing, or your confidence has suffered making you hide your smile, dental implants can offer a great solution. Dental implants feel natural and are completely secure, and if you care for them as your dentist recommends then they can last a lifetime.
What happens during the procedure?
Before teeth implants are put in, your dentist will assess your general oral hygiene, looking out for any signs of gum disease or decay. If these conditions are found they must be treated first. If all is clear, you will then need to have some x-rays and a CT scan to check your bone quality and assess the area around where the implant will go.
Teeth implants are usually done under local anaesthetic, which means your jaw will be numb so you won’t feel any pain. A small section of your gum will be lifted so a hole can be drilled into the jawbone. This will receive the root implant and will be tightly screwed in place, before the small flap of gum is stitched back together. Your mouth will then be left alone for a few weeks so it can heal, and to give the surrounding bone a chance to fuse securely with the root implant. This may take any time between six weeks to six months.
During the time it takes for your gum to heal, you may be offered temporary false teeth. When the bone is fully fused, you will need a second minor operation in order to fit a tiny post into the root. This will accommodate the temporary tooth until, approximately four to six weeks later, the permanent tooth will be fitted.
What are the advantages?
May people opt for dentures or bridges to replace missing teeth, but there are many advantages to having teeth implants instead, including:
- Aesthetic confidence – the false tooth will be indistinguishable from your natural teeth and will be completely secure. No-one could tell you have a false tooth.
- Reduced bone loss – if you leave the gap where your tooth used to be without having an implant put in, the bone around this area will slowly start to disappear. This can change the shape of your jaw, which is why it is often obvious that someone has dentures just by observing by the shape of their face. Dental implants can actually stimulate bone growth avoiding any degradation or bone loss.
- Improved function – there will be no problem eating hard or crunchy food, as there sometimes is with dentures. The tooth implant is firmly fixed into your jaw and won’t fall out.
- Minimal interference – with dental implants your neighboring teeth are left intact. In many cases, when you have dentures or bridges, the adjacent teeth may be damaged in order to provide support for them. This does not happen with teeth implants.
- Improved dental hygiene – you only need to care for your tooth implant and false tooth as you would your natural teeth. There are no special cleaning instructions.
- Long term solution – teeth implants offer a secure long term solution without compromising your remaining teeth or damaging your gums.
What are the disadvantages?
- You have to have two minor operations
- Teeth implants can be a costly procedure
- If you need many teeth implants it can be time-consuming
- The crown (the false tooth) may need to be replaced in 10-15 years
- Bone grafting may sometimes be necessary if you don’t have enough in your jaw
- In rare cases, the implanted root may fail to fuse with the surrounding bone. If this happens the jaw will be allowed to heal and then the dentist may try again, or else offer an alternative procedure, such as a bridge.