For those who are unhappy with their teeth for whatever reason – cosmetic or medical – there are several options available to restore a missing smile. In previous decades, the only option available for those with tooth loss was dentures but now more people are opting for dental implants.

If you are thinking about exploring whether dental implants could be the perfect solution for you read on for a comprehensive guide on all you need to know before making your decision.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental implants take the form of a small metal screw, or rod, which serves to replace the natural root of a tooth. A new tooth is manufactured to be affixed onto the screw via an abutment, or connector, and the whole thing is implanted surgically into the jawbone to replace the missing tooth or teeth. Once healed, the implant looks and acts as naturally as real teeth. A dental implant – or artificial root – can support crowns or dentures and depending on how many teeth have been lost or need replacing, several implants may be required although one implant can support several teeth.

Dental implants are usually made from titanium for strength and longevity and because it is a metal which integrates very well with bone – usually without complications. The tooth part of the implant is often made from ceramic or porcelain for a completely natural look. If cared for properly, a dental implant can last as long as natural teeth.

What is the Treatment Process?                                                                 

In the first instance, your dentist will make a thorough assessment of your suitability for dental implants which will involve taking x-rays to determine the strength and viability of the bone in your jaw. Your dentist will talk you through the process and explain to you that it will take several weeks or even months and that it will involve more than one procedure and several visits to the surgery. You will be advised to stop smoking if necessary in order to give the implant procedure the best chance of success.

Stage One

This usually takes place under local anaesthesia to completely block any pain and involves the fitting of the metal implant (screw) and the abutment by way of a small cut in the gum and a small hole drilled into the jawbone. The bone is then left to heal. Sometimes the implant and the abutment are fitted in separate stages – your dentist will advise you on this. In some cases, further sedation may be needed but you can discuss this with your dentist beforehand.

Stage Two

After your new tooth, or teeth, is made it will be attached to the implant once the implant has settled, usually at a later date but occasionally it could be attached straightaway.

If your implant is to be fitted in separate stages be assured that you won’t be left with an unsightly gap. Your dentist will be able to fit a temporary denture or bridge.

After each stage of the process, you may feel a little numbness or discomfort as the local anaesthetic starts to wear off in which case an over-the-counter painkiller such as paracetamol or ibuprofen will help.

Who Could Benefit from Dental Implants?

Anyone over the age of 18 can have dental implants providing they are in good health and the dentist considers the bone in the jaw to be strong enough. Under-18s are not suitable as the bone is still developing and growing. There are some medical issues which can exclude you from having dental implants and these include:

Uncontrolled diabetes
Periodontal (gum) disease
Radiotherapy treatment to the jaw

Your dentist will advise you on any other issues which may preclude you from the implant process and will recommend good alternatives.