If you have a missing tooth, you may be looking for the best way to replace it and get back your complete smile. While dental bridges and partial dentures are an option, single implants are the closest we can currently get to Mother Nature and restoring not only the aesthetics of your smile, but also the function and strength of your bite.
There are several ways in which we can use dental implants to replace one or more missing teeth – single implants are one of those options. With a single implant, we would place a titanium post (the implant itself) in your jaw bone to replace the lost root. Over a period of approximately four months, your bone will then strengthen and grow around the post – a process called osseointegration – to hold it in place. This is what makes a dental implant almost, if not as strong as a natural tooth.
Once the implant is stable, we can then put an attachment called the abutment on top of the dental implant, at the point where it comes out of your gum. This abutment provides a secure base for a false tooth, which has been perfectly colour matched and shaped to blend in with your surrounding teeth. It can be really difficult to spot that you’ve got a false tooth!
Dental implants have several distinct benefits, both as single implants or as multiple implants. When we place a dental implant, we only need to work at the site of the missing tooth, leaving your neighbouring healthy teeth untouched. This is in contrast to a dental bridge, where often we have to file down the teeth on either side of the gap left by a missing tooth to create a pillar on which to anchor the bridge.
One of the many downsides of tooth loss is that, without a root to send important signals to your jaw bone, the bone itself can become weak and start to disintegrate where the root is missing. Eventually, bone loss can lead to future tooth loss, drifting teeth and a misaligned bite, a change to your underlying facial structure making you look much older, and even problems with your speech. One of the reasons that people need to have the fit of their dentures adjusted over time is because of bone loss.
When we place a dental implant, however, the bone responds to its presence by regenerating and keeping everything functioning as it should.
Dental implants are ideal for most people and have as much as a 95% success rate (Source: University College London Hospitals) in most areas of the mouth. Habits such as smoking can affect the success of dental implants, so this and other risk factors are some of the things we would discuss with you at your consultation.
As this is a minor surgical procedure, it does carry the usual risks associated with surgery, such as infection, but we will give you comprehensive aftercare instructions to help minimise the chance of any complications. If you ever have any questions, we are always only a phone call or email away.
It’s important to look after your single implants in the same way that you would your natural teeth. In most rare cases where an implant has become unstable in the months or years after treatment, it is because the patient has not looked after the implant. You should brush and floss your implant at least twice a day, and attend regular dental check-ups and hygienist appointments.
When we place a single implant, it’s done under local anaesthetic, so you shouldn’t feel anything at all during the procedure. Most patients tell us that having a dental implant put in is far more comfortable than having a tooth extracted.
As the implant goes into your gum and jaw bone, you will experience some discomfort after the procedure, but this can usually be managed well with over-the-counter pain medication. As you might expect, the recovery time is much shorter with single implants and most patients are back at work the next day.
We have used our many years of experience of delivering implant treatments at Spring Grove Clinic to develop specific pre- and post-op protocols to make your recovery as smooth and comfortable as possible.
How long your treatment takes will depend on your individual case. If we need to take steps to get you orally fit first, we would build that into your treatment plan. Once your dental implant is placed, you should expect it to take 8 to 12 weeks before the bone fully strengthens around the implant sufficiently to put a new tooth on top. Once the implant is stable, we’ll then place the abutment and prosthetic tooth – this may be done over a couple of appointments two or more weeks apart.
In most cases, we will create a temporary restoration for you to wear until your implant is ready for its prosthetic tooth. This should restore your smile and help you go about your everyday life with confidence.
When looking into dental implants, it’s tempting to compare the price to other restorations. It that context, dental implants seem expensive. It’s worth remembering that while restorations such as dental bridges and dentures may be less expensive initially, they also have to be replaced at regular intervals. Dental implants, on the other hand, have the potential to last a lifetime if you look after them properly. We also find that dental implants help to prevent problems such as bone loss and keep patients orally fit, which can cut down how much you need to spend on future dental treatment.