The Down Low on Dental Implants

We’re back this month with everything you need to know about dental implants.

Dental Implants

What are dental implants?

A dental implant is a long-term, discreet solution for replacing missing or failing teeth.

A dental implant itself is a titanium screw that is placed directly into your jawbone, replacing your missing tooth root. After it’s fitted, the bone surrounding your implant will gradually fuse to it, holding the implant firmly in place. A false tooth (a crown or denture) is then fitted to the top of the implant. The false tooth or teeth are similar in shape, size and colour to your existing teeth, meaning your implant will blend in naturally with your smile.

How do you care for dental implants?

Like natural teeth, dental implants will last for as long as you care for them. How well you look after them and whether you go for regular maintenance appointments will determine how long they last.

If you don’t look after your implants, they will develop a coating similar to that on uncared for natural teeth. As with natural teeth, this can cause gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort.

If your implants are well looked after and the bone they are fitted to is strong and healthy, they should last for many years. But as with other surgical implants, there is no lifetime guarantee.

Are implant teeth difficult to clean?

Implant teeth are not difficult to clean and aftercare is important for a long, successful implant. Your dental team will provide advice on how to look after your implant. There may be areas that are difficult to reach when brushing but your dentist will show you how to clean them. You may need to visit the hygienist more often to ensure all your teeth are kept clean.

Can dental implants always be used to replace missing teeth?

You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants - from one single tooth to a complete set. If you have some of your own teeth you can still have implants.

Whether you can have implants depends on the condition of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist will take X-rays of your mouth and create a model of your existing teeth. This helps them to check you’re suitable for implants and to decide exactly where they need to be placed. Your dentist might also recommend you have a CBCT scan to help them understand exactly how much bone you have. In some cases, your dentist may need to perform a bone graft or sinus lift to create enough space for the implants to sit before you have your treatment.

Dentist Chair

How are dental implants done and does it hurt?

Implants are usually placed using a local anaesthetic and the process is easier than taking a tooth out. It’s relatively pain-free But if you do feel nervous, your dentist may be able to offer sedation to put your mind at ease.

You may feel some discomfort during the week after surgery. Your dental team may give you some painkillers for after the surgery - or make sure you have some available at home.

Once your mouth is numb, your dentist will cut into your gum and drill a small hole into the jawbone. The implant itself is then inserted into this hole. Your gum is then usually closed with stitches.

In some cases, your new teeth can be restored the same day. But usually, your bone and gums will need some time to heal before an abutment and crown can be attached. So, you may have a visible gap while the implant heals, or you can have some temporary teeth fitted until you’re ready.

What happens after the surgery?

After your implants have been placed, the bone in your jaw needs to grow and fuse onto them - which usually takes a few months. Sometimes you can have false teeth fitted sooner than this, depending on how stable the implants are.

Will I get gum disease with the implants if I had it prior to surgery?

Yes - if you don’t care for your teeth and gums once your implants have been fitted, you could get gum disease. You will need to be particularly careful with the health of your implants if you smoke - some dentists will not place implants for smokers.

What do implants look like?

Most implants look like natural teeth.

How much do dental implants cost?

Implants are not usually available on the NHS so will be a private treatment. They only cost a little more than conventional crowns and bridges, but are usually a longer-term and better treatment. They also don’t impact eating and drinking like dentures do and there is no need to cut down the teeth alongside an implant as a dentist does to fit a crown.

The average cost for a single tooth dental implant is usually £2,500. Speak to your dentist about the full cost of your treatment, as everyone’s needs vary.