Dental implants

What are they?

Implants are one way of replacing missing teeth.

Unlike other forms of replacement teeth, dental implants are small metal (mostly titanium) devices not unlike a screw fitting which are inserted into the jaw during surgery. Teeth, in the form of a crown or bridge are often then attached to the implant, or the implant can be used to support dentures.

What are the benefits?

Some people have real difficulties with removable dentures. Implants can overcome these difficulties, in particular for eating and speaking properly and they may improve appearance. If a denture is necessary, implants can greatly improve stability. People will not be able to see that your teeth are supported by implants. Implants can be used in place of bridges, for example when adjacent teeth are intact or may not be strong enough to support a bridge.

Are implants for me?

Your dentist should discuss with you whether implants would be right for you, and explain any associated risks.

Patients need to have healthy gums, and enough jawbone to take the implant that supports the replacement teeth although techniques are available to add (graft) additional bone if needed. Patients must also be prepared to maintain very good oral hygiene and visit the dentist regularly. Implants, like teeth, may be lost if mouth hygiene is poor.

Implant patients need to be in good general health. Some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis, or chronic sinus problems, could interfere with healing and make implants more likely to fail.

Make sure that you tell your dentist about any medicines that you take regularly, and about your smoking habits. Smoking may well shorten the life of your implant.

Implants involve treatment over a period of several months. Since they are a complicated form of treatment, implants can be expensive.

What will my dentist do?

Your dentist should tell you about the stages of treatment, who would be carrying out each stage and the timetable for completing treatment. You might be referred to a specialist.

This is what will happen:

  • Bone is exposed in the jaw where the tooth is missing. Then a hole is drilled and the implant is inserted into the bone. This is usually done under a local anaesthetic, but sometimes sedation or a general anaesthetic is necessary. The gum is then stitched over the implant and it’s left to heal for several weeks. This allows bone to grow around the implant and to make it secure.
  • A second procedure is then planned, in which replacement teeth are mounted into the implant. This requires a small cut in the gum above the implant. Once the soft tissues have healed, the replacement teeth may be fixed permanently or attached in a way that lets you remove them for cleaning. The replacement teeth may be single or in a group, and possibly as a ‘bridge’, attached to neighbouring natural teeth.
  • There may be circumstances in which an implant can be placed during the same visit when the tooth is removed.
  • More and more implants are being ‘loaded’ after placement rather than covered by the gum to heal. Please discuss this with your dentist.
  • Maintaining good oral hygiene is important to prevent dental decay and gum disease, which may affect crowned teeth.

Speak to your local Clear Dental Practice to learn more.

Removable dentures

What are they?

A removable denture replaces missing teeth. ‘partial’ dentures replace a few missing teeth, or ‘full’ or ‘complete’ dentures are needed if all the natural teeth are missing.

Complete dentures are made of acrylic (plastic). Partial dentures can also be made wholly of acrylic. Alternatively, they may consist of acrylic teeth on a light metal alloy base: this type of partial denture is more secure, stronger and less bulky, but also more expensive.

What will my dentist do?

  • The dentist uses a putty-like material to make moulds of your mouth – called ‘impressions’. A dental technician uses them to make models for the denture to be built on. Second impressions may be taken to provide a more accurate fit.
  • The technician makes wax blocks which fit the models. The dentist puts these in your mouth to record the position of your jaws in relation to each other. The dentist then trims and seals the wax blocks to show the technician how your teeth should bite together, and the shape to make the denture.
  • A trial denture is made and put in your mouth. The dentist will ask you how it fits, feels and looks before making any final changes.
  • The trial denture then goes back to the technician who permanently fixes the teeth. The next visit consists of placing the finished denture in your mouth, adjusting the final fit and providing instructions on how to look after your dentures.
  • The denture is then ready to sue. The dentist will want to see you again fairly soon to see how you are getting on with the denture. If there are problems, they can make small adjustments.
  • It is usual (unless you are exempt from charges) that the dentist will expect payment for the denture before placing in your mouth

What are the benefits?

  • If you have lost some teeth, dentures can improve the way you look, bite, chew and speak.
  • They are custom-made to match your mouth and can be made to look as natural as possible.
  • The teeth that are left are protected from wear and tear. Without dentures, the natural teeth may more or tilt, stopping your teeth biting together properly.
  • Dentures can be fitted immediately after front teeth have been taken out so that nobody will know you have a tooth out. These are called ‘immediate’ dentures. Immediate dentures will gradually lose their fit over six to 12 months and the dentist will need to see you during this time. Further visits will involve possible relining of the denture to improve the fit. After six to 12 months, the healing process will have settled down and the new denture will be made. Both relining and new dentures may lead to extra costs.

Dentures will never feel like your own teeth, and it can take time to get used to them. If you haven’t had a denture before, the dentist will want to explain the difficulties of wearing dentures, as well as the benefits and how you should look after your new dentures and the teeth you have left. Good oral hygiene is important to maintain the teeth supporting your dentures.

Speak to your local Clear Dental Practice to learn more.