WHAT IS A DENTAL IMPLANT?
A dental implant involves replacing a missing tooth or teeth with a prosthesis (restoration) held in place by a titanium rod. There are three main components that make up a dental implant:
- Fixture: Made of titanium, this is the section of the implant that fuses (known as osseo-integration) to the bone, making the implant extremely strong and stable. The fixture is essentially hollow, allowing teeth-replacements to be screwed tightly into position.
- Abutment: This is the specialised attachment that connects the prosthesis, through the gum, to the fixture.
- Prosthesis: This is the part of the implant that looks like a tooth or teeth. It can come in the form of:
- Singe crown: useful if missing a single tooth (like the picture to the right). This is the most common restoration.
- Bridge: useful if missing multiple teeth next to each other. You don’t necessarily need a dental implant for every missing tooth.
- Full arch bridge: sometimes referred to as “All on 4” implants, this option is suitable for those missing multiple teeth. Fixed replacements can be fabricated to act like your natural teeth and the bridge can be made of porcelain or use a titanium or metal core with acrylic or porcelain teeth.
- Removable denture: the denture clips onto the abutment to stop it moving out of position. Common when missing all of your teeth in the lower jaw.
HOW LONG DO IMPLANTS LAST?
Maxillary (upper) and mandibular (lower) implants are more than 90% successful over 10 years, with lower implants generally being slightly more successful than upper implants. There does not appear to be any reason for a dental implant to need routine replacement with many cases of implants lasting a lifetime.
Chances of an implant failure, many times, can be determined during or immediately after the surgical phase before the replacement tooth or teeth are constructed. Of course, the prosthesis on top of the implant will be subject to normal ‘wear and tear’ and will require the same sort of maintenance as any other dental work and your own natural teeth. Dental implants that are not brushed and flossed well are prone to peri-implantitis.
WHAT IS INVOLVED IN THE ACTUAL TREATMENT?
There are generally two phases involved in replacing your missing tooth or teeth with a dental implant.
Phase one is the process of placing the fixture into the jaw bone. The area is heavily anaesthetised and an incision is made into the gym to prepare a hole for the fixture. The fixture is placed and the gums are then sutured to ensure healing over the next 2-6 months.
Phase two involves creating a custom made prosthesis in a laboratory and using a digital scanner to create an accurate impression of the head of the fixture. The prosthesis is then secured to the implant.
The entire course of treatment takes between 3-12 months on average.
I HAVE HEARD ABOUT “TEETH IN A DAY” OR “ALL ON 4 IMPLANTS”. WHAT IS THAT?
This means that both phases of treatment happen on the same day (or within days of each other) without allowing any time for healing. This type of treatment is becoming more popular with time poor patients and with the advances in dental materials over the years, has allowed it to become a more popular treatment choice.
However, patients must keep in mind that placing a prosthesis without allowing the standard healing time predisposes them to greater incidences of early failure and complications with the dental implant. As long as they are happy with this risk then having an immediately loaded implant may be an option.
WILL I HAVE A ‘GAP’ WHILE THE IMPLANT IS HEALING?
Temporary bridges or dentures are made on a case-by-case basis. This will be discussed with you prior to treatment.
HOW MUCH DOES THE PROCEDURE COST?
The cost of dental implants will vary for each individual circumstance, and depends on relevant factors such as how many teeth you need replaced, the quality of the implant and the type of implant. Visit our pricing and fees page for a price range.