Dental implants have revolutionised the cosmetic dental field over the last few decades. They provide a permanent solution to missing teeth which acts exactly like a natural tooth.
Not since the invention of dentures has there been a genuine solution to tooth loss, and there has never been an option quite like it. Thanks to improvements in the technology, dental implants cost less than ever. This makes them a more affordable option and opens up the treatment to a wider range of people.
It’s genuinely like having your original tooth back – every aspect of the implant is like a natural tooth. It’s firmly secured in place, so eating is exactly like it was before you lost your original tooth, and the care and hygiene of an implant is exactly like a normal tooth – brush, floss and have regular check-ups with your cosmetic dentist.
While traditional dentures can be uncomfortable and prevent you from eating certain types of food, a well-fitted implant should make you forget that it’s even there. You can eat normally, it should sit comfortably in your mouth and you can eat pretty much whatever you like without worrying about it falling out or breaking.
Despite the increase in popularity, many people are still unclear about various aspects of the procedure. Many people are aware of the treatment but are largely unclear about the finer details.
Here, we intend to answer the most common questions we receive about teeth implants.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is often the most suitable treatment for a missing tooth. If the tooth is decayed, the visible part called the crown as well as its root is lost. The implant, which is made from titanium, artificially replaces the tooth root. Once the dentist bonds the implant with the jawbone, an abutment is then placed on top of the dental implant in order to join the implant with the replacement tooth. People who lose their tooth/teeth due to gum disease or injury often turn to this type of dental treatment.
The dental expert offers many different implant systems that deliver a reliable form of treatment and his/her main objective is for the new tooth to achieve immediate contact with the surrounding bone. Once the healing process begins, the patient’s implant will fuse with their natural jawbone to form a long-lasting foundation for their replacement tooth. An implant is the closest you can get to a natural and healthy tooth as it allows you to laugh, smile, and eat all the foods you want without worrying about your missing tooth.
How Do I Know If I’m Suitable For Dental Implant Treatment?
A dental implant is suitable for most healthy adults. If you have a missing tooth or several missing teeth, you may a good candidate as nearly every adult in good health has the jawbone to hold the implant. Some of the reasons why people turn to dental implants are if they are born with a tooth, their existing teeth have decayed, or they suffer from periodontal disease. A dental implant is also a good option for those who no longer wish to wear dentures.
If you are a smoker and alcohol drinker, your initial healing process can take longer as these habits cause a number of problems. What’s more, smoking can be bad in the long-term for your gum’s health as well as the bone surrounding the implant. In fact, some dental professionals will decline the implant placement if the patient cannot cut down or give up smoking altogether. To determine whether you are a good candidate, be sure to talk to an experienced dentist and mention if you’re a smoker, have any medical conditions, and whether you take any prescribed or over-the-counter medications.
How Are Dental Implants Placed?
The dental expert will first assess your jaw to see if you have enough bone to support the implant, otherwise the bone in the area must be built up before the implanting process begins. This procedure is called augmentation, where a bone graft is carried out. If you need bone grafting, it will take 4 to 8 months to heal before having the implant in your jawbone. During the healing time, you can wear a bridge or dentures so you can still eat and carry on with your daily activities.
Most implants consist of a two-step procedure, although the newer ones can be placed in a one-step process. The patient is given pain medicine before the start of the procedure. The dentist will then use local anaesthesia to numb the gum area before continuing with the rest of the procedure.
The dental surgeon will make a small cut into the gum in order to expose the bone before drilling a hole and placing the implant inside the hole. An x-ray is taken to make sure the implant is exactly where it needs to be. The gum over the implant is stitched and closed by the surgeon. Once the implant is connected with the surrounding bone, the patient is ready for the next step.
The surgeon will make another small incision in the gum after the patient is given local anaesthesia. The implant is then exposed and the protective screw is replaced with a metal cap. This healing collar looks like a metal tube that that sits above the gum area where the actual tooth should be. This metal tube helps the gum around the implant gradually heal.
How Long Does The Procedure Take?
A one-step procedure usually takes less than one hour to complete and the patient will feel some pain or discomfort afterwards. However, the exact time required depends on the number of implants being placed as well as whether the patient requires bone grafting.
The second phase will begin once the implant is bonded firmly into the bone. The creation and placement of the crown or artificial tooth is carried out in a dental lab before it is placed in the bone. To have a crown made by the dentist, the patient is required to bite into a mould before it is sent to the lab.
Generally, the better the quality of bone, the less time the treatment will take, while a poor quality bone will require longer treatment that goes beyond 6 months. Thanks to technological advances in dental implant, it is now possible to extract the decayed tooth and place the crown in just one visit, which greatly simplifies the implant procedure.
How Many Teeth Can Implants Support?
Implants can be used to replace all the missing teeth. Bridges or dentures are also used as extra support when the patient undergoes dental implants. If, however, you only have one tooth that needs replacing, then you will only need one replacement. Several missing or decayed teeth will require larger spaces and the exact number of implants will largely depend on the volume and quality of the bone for each implant site.
If you have a habit of clenching your teeth, especially during sleep, your teeth may be put at risk of overloading the implants. Grinding your teeth on a daily basis will result in worn or chipped teeth so you must mention this to your dental surgeon. He/she will consider placing additional implants and choosing the right restorative materials during the treatment. You may also be provided with a mouth-guard to wear at night in order to protect your teeth.
Types of Dental Implant
Today, there are more than 30 different types of implants that are considered as traditional and standard, including two others called mini and micro-mini. The mini implants work the same way as the traditional ones but are smaller in size. The micro-mini implants are varied in design, but they are smaller and narrower. The micro-mini implants are also more temporary and designed to be removed as of when required. To find out more about some of the other types of dental implants, take a note of the following:
Single tooth implants: as per the name, this type of implant supports one single crown.
Multiple tooth implants: if there are multiple teeth missing, the surgeon will place multiple implants that support the bridge. Every 3-unit bridge is supported by 2 or more implants. A minimum number of 5 to 10 implants are needed in order to fill a full jaw.
A combination of temporary or fixed bridgework: when implants are used as support to the fixed bridgework, the surgeon will also attach a temporary section.
Endosteal: this type of implant is placed in the actual jawbone. It is shaped like a small screw or plate and is the most common type of implant that dental surgeons use.
Subperiosteal: this type of implant is placed under the gum, just above the jawbone. It is suitable for patients with a shallow jawbone who cannot or will not undergo bone grafting.
If the patient has no teeth, a fixed bridge is placed in the gum in combination with the dental implants. This is the best long-term solution for people who have lost all their teeth. Thanks to the advances in dental technology, it is now possible to replace a full jaw with a fixed bridge and dental implants that will result in a permanent solution.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
The most common question around implants is ‘how much does a dental implant cost?’. The truth is that it can vary considerably from dentist to dentist. While everywhere will be different, there are some general trends which you can expect to see when looking for dental implants prices.
The initial consultation with your cosmetic dentist will help to determine the rough cost of the treatment. There may be some groundwork that needs done before they can proceed, which will influence the overall tooth implant’s cost.
The dentist will need to prepare the area around the implant prior to the procedure taking place. This can involve things like extractions and repair work on the surrounding teeth. They will likely also need to take various x-rays to determine the health of your gums before proceeding with the implant.
A single tooth implant costs slightly different depending on where it is in your mouth. A front tooth is generally a little more expensive than a back tooth, but this isn’t always the case. For a single tooth implant you can expect to pay between £900-1800. This will be dependent on the amount of work involved as well as the standard charges your dentist has.
2 Neighbouring Teeth
Multiple dental implants cost a little more than single teeth, as you might expect, but the cost per tooth is often a little lower than individual implants. As with single implants, those at the front are generally a little more costly than those at the back. The cost for 2 neighbouring teeth will range between £1600-£3500. Again, this depends on the work required and the location of the implants.
3 or More Neighbouring Teeth
The cost will increase exponentially as the number of implants requires increases, so the cost can add up fairly quickly if you need a substantial amount of work done. The benefits of implants are huge, but the cost of multiple implants can be high.
Implant Secured Dentures
An increasingly popular choice for those who require multiple implants, implant secured dentures involve permanently securing dentures to the jaw using implants. They can be the most practical method for replacing a large number of teeth. The dental implant cost will depend on the number of implants needed, but it’s generally cheaper than individual implants.
What Are The Advantages of Implants Over Other Tooth Replacement Methods?
There are many advantages to dental implants over standard tooth replacement methods. Implants are the next best thing to healthy and strong teeth. They feel just like a natural tooth and unlike other alternative methods, implants don’t lead to bone deterioration or interfere with eating, speaking, and smiling.
Placing a bridge can cause damage to the healthy teeth or those that are missing. However, with implants, the new teeth are placed in the jawbone where the missing root used to be, without jeopardising the healthy teeth. Dental implants prevent the adjacent teeth from changing position as they would if the empty space was left for a long period of time.
Because dental implant treatment has a highly successful outcome and is more reliable than most other treatments such as root canal therapy, it is often considered to be the most suitable treatment for repairing or replacing missing teeth. If you wear a denture, you may worry about it falling out or slipping every time you eat or speak. You even have to take your denture out every night before sleeping. However, with dental implants, you have the advantage of keeping your teeth in your mouth and not in a cup.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
Using a highly experienced dental surgeon is the first important step in ensuring that your implants will last for a long time. Once the implant and its surrounding tissues are healthy and correctly fitted into place, it is then down to the patient to pay attention to their oral hygiene and attend regular dental visits. How long the implants last depends on how well you take care of them. A poorly cared for implant will eventually develop a hard or soft deposit that consists of plaque, and if left untreated, it can lead to gum infection, sore gums, or bleeding.
Well-maintained implants will generally last as long as natural teeth or possibly a lifetime, only if they are placed into adequate jawbone and high quality materials are used by the dental surgeon. But as you’d expect crowns or fillings to require occasional repairs, your implant may also require some maintenance over the years. An annual dental check-up is recommended for preventing future problems with your implants.
Are Dental Implants Safe?
The modern implants have been used for more than 3 decades and are proven safe and effective. As they are made of titanium, the patient’s body will accept this bio-compatible material. When dental implant surgery is performed by a trained dentist, it is one of the safest procedures in the field of dentistry.
There are now sturdy devices available to support the new tooth and make it work adequately and look naturally. In fact, a dental implant treatment is currently the only restoration technique that actually stimulates the natural bone under the missing tooth instead of causing deterioration.
Just like any other surgery, there are always some health risks, which are mostly minor and can easily be treated. Some of these include:
- Damage or injury to the surrounding teeth or tissues
- Nerve damage
- Upper jaw implants causing sinus problems
Just like natural tooth and gum tissue can become infected by plaque, an implant is also at risk of developing problems years after it is placed. If left untreated, it can lead to periodontal disease and affect the healthy teeth.
Are Dental Implants Painful?
After your surgery is over, you may be sore for a couple of days just like any other surgery. But this can easily be managed with over-the-counter pain medication. Make sure you take your painkillers regularly for the first two days after the surgery. If after two days you still feel pain or swelling, go back to the dental clinic for a check-up in order to prevent the development of an infection.
For the first week after the surgery, you should continue wearing your denture if you have it to cover the surgical area and help the site heal quicker. Just make sure you leave the denture out at night before sleeping.
According to patients who have undergone dental implant surgery, very little pain is experienced during the procedure. The surgeon uses local anaesthesia so the patient doesn’t feel much discomfort and some people have even said that an implant is less painful than tooth extraction.
What Do Implants Look Like?
An implant feels and looks just like a natural tooth. It works in the same way as a real tooth and the patient will have no difficulties eating with it. The only difference is the way it is attached to the bone. As the implant is fused directly to the bone, its response to dental disease depends on how strong the periodontal ligament is. If you take a look at your implant in the mirror, you won’t be able to tell the difference between this tooth and your other natural teeth.
Caring For Your Implants
You need to take care of your implants and treat them the same way as your natural teeth. Make sure you floss regularly and attend annual dental cleanings. To improve the lifespan of your implants, it is important to maintain good oral hygiene by spending a few minutes a day cleaning your implants. To maintain optimum implant health, you should follow regular hygiene procedures as per your dentist’s advice. Once he/she is satisfied that your implants are performing as planned, you’ll be asked to keep up with routine maintenance and cleaning.
Most implant-supported teeth need to cleaned thoroughly using a special brush. When flossing, you must make sure you clean around the bridge of each tooth and where necessary, use an interdental brush or similar cleaning aids. To help protect your implant, you need to use a low-abrasive toothbrush and avoid bushing with sodium fluoride toothpaste, baking soda, and any other stain –removing gel that can expose the surface of the implant. If the outer part of the implant gets exposed, it will be susceptible to bacteria. A good hygienist can prepare you by providing home-care advice based on your treatment.
Alternatives to Dental Implants
Some dental professionals offer alternatives to dental implants. Here is an overview of some of these techniques.
A fixed bridge is a common alternative when restoring a single tooth. This alternative to dental implants has several disadvantages. The dentist has to grind away or even damage the healthy adjacent tooth in order to attach it to the bridge. The bone underneath the bridge isn’t stimulated like the dental implant so it may wear away over time. The appearance of your smile can significantly change and the fixed bridge may not last as long as an implant. What’s more, tooth-supported fixed bridges require more ongoing maintenance than implants.
Same-day load implants involve the process of placing a temporary tooth or crown on the very first visit to the clinic. You can carry on with your daily life while the temporary crown fuses with your natural bone. A long-term crown will be placed in about 6 months’ time, however, this procedure is only suitable for those who have enough bone to support the temporary implant. To find out whether this procedure is appropriate for you, talk with your dental expert first.
Removable dentures won’t require grinding down the surrounding teeth but aren’t as comfortable or sturdy as dental implants. Dentures can also affect eating and speaking but are less expensive. This alternative method to implants doesn’t look as natural or work as well as the implant-supported tooth.
Resin-bonded bridges are used to restore the front teeth. There is no need to grind down the adjacent teeth as the wings are used to attach them to the surrounding teeth. A resin-bonded bridge is a better alternative to removable denture; however, it is not as stable as a fixed bridge and certainly doesn’t last as long as implants.
Removable complete dentures are devices that are placed on top of the gums where the missing teeth used to be. This is a cheaper alternative to implants but it can be somewhat uncomfortable and affect your ability to enjoy the taste of food. The most common problems that are experienced by people who wear removable complete dentures include sore gums and the sound of clicking in the mouth whenever speaking or eating.
Are Dental Implants Covered By Insurance?
If you recently have had one or more dental implants, or you are about to undergo surgery, you should consider protecting your valuable investment by insuring them. Most health insurance policies don’t cover dental implants, however, if you look online, you will come across many insurers who are willing to cover the cost of repair or replacement of the implants. In fact, you can claim up to £2,500 per implant as well as up to £100 accident or injury towards the travel costs to the dental clinic. Most standard health policies won’t cover the implant’s failure to settle in the bone or any damage that’s caused to the implant through wear and tear. You also won’t be able to claim within 1 month of taking out your insurance policy or if you had the implants fitted abroad.
Going Abroad for Dental Implants
According to the UK Medical Travel Advisory, more and more people are seeking dental and cosmetic treatments abroad. In fact, in the last 6 months, the number of patients who have travelled overseas has trebled. The main reason for going abroad for dental implants is to avoid NHS waiting lists. In fact, more than 40 per cent of travellers are having cosmetic surgery abroad as they combine their holiday with a high quality treatment. The most popular procedures include restorative dental treatments such as crowns, implants, veneers, teeth whitening, and bridges.
Although the last thing on the mind of a person who needs medical care is travel, there is still a growing number of tourists who prefer to travel to East Europe or beyond for dental procedures. The rising health care costs in the UK push more and more people to seek treatment abroad, while the medical facilities in the developing countries have improved and even exceed expectations. Tourists are surprised to find modern equipment at the dental clinics and hospitals around the world.
Lower cost of dental treatments is the main reason most people opt to go abroad. By far the most popular countries for UK dental patients are in East Europe due to low cost flights and great value dental treatments. You’ll be surprised by the ultra-modern technology in the dental clinics in countries such as Bulgaria and Lithuania. These countries have made huge investments in their dental treatments and attract a high number of dental tourists every year. What’s more, the dental industry has become highly competitive so clinics are forever searching for ways to improve their services. If you pay a visit to some of their websites, you will soon see the level of standards on offer. It’s no wonder so many UK dental tourists are going abroad for cheaper and high quality treatments.