Dental implants have been used to replace missing teeth since the mid-1960s, but in recent years their use has become much more widespread. They can be used to support crowns replacing single missing teeth, bridges that restore a larger span of missing teeth, or even dentures. Implants are manufactured from titanium, a metal that is known to be compatible with body tissues and able to bond with adjacent bone during healing. There is now a wealth of evidence from studies and from clinical experience to show that dental implants are a safe and convenient way to replace lost teeth with natural-looking results.
Why have dental implants?
Dental implants have a number of important advantages over conventional crowns, bridges and dentures:
- Implants look and feel like natural teeth.
- Implants function in the same way as natural teeth, and there are no difficulties with eating or cleaning the teeth.
- Healthy adjacent teeth do not have to be filed down to act as supports for the missing tooth or teeth. This means that they are therefore less likely to need root fillings.
- The presence of the implant maintains the structure of the bone beneath the replaced tooth, as chewing forces are transmitted through the implant to the bone and stimulate the natural process of bone renewal. This helps preserve a good appearance, both of the restored teeth and of the face.
- Dental implants can be used to give removable dentures a firm grip.
- With dental implants, there is no need to use special glues to hold the false teeth in place, as there is with some dentures.
What does a dental implant consist of?
A dental implant is essentially a titanium screw or cylinder, between 8 and 16 mm long, which is inserted into a prepared bony socket in the jaw and acts as a replacement root for the missing tooth. A special attachment called the abutment, which is fitted to the top of the implant, forms the external connection for the new replacement tooth (crown) or teeth(bridge or denture).
How long will my implant last?
Dental implants have been used successfully for many decades and we know that, with careful maintenance, they will function for many years. In studies, 95% of implants last for at least 5 years, but most are likely to have a much longer life. To maximize the lifespan of your implant, you are strongly advised to avoid smoking. It is also extremely important to continue with a very thorough oral hygiene program at home and to attend regular recall visits at your dentist for careful inspection of your implant, teeth, and gums. This will allow you to have your implant and teeth professionally cleaned and enable any problems to be dealt with promptly before they threaten the stability of your implant.
With very good oral hygiene, regular recall appointments and avoidance of smoking, your dental implant has every chance of lasting for many years.