A dental implant is a medical device that is inserted into the jawbones of a patient. The purpose of the implant is to support either an extra tooth, a bridge, or a removable denture and the implant is in the shape of a screw.
The first step in having a successful dental implant is to find the right dentist who can make a skilled assessment and someone who is surgically-experienced.
Here, one of our top dentists Mr Ali Abdellatif explains what he does in his clinic to ensure the best results of a dental implant and gives advice on how to search for the right dentist for you.
How does dental implant work?
An implant is made of either titanium, an alloy mixed with titanium or it can be made of a material called zirconia. The magic behind the dental implant is that the body's cells become drawn to it, so the implant becomes fused with the patient's body.
How can skilled dentists ensure the longevity of a dental implant?
When we first started training or learning to do dental implants (and I speak about the generation before me, from whom I learned) the objective was only to make sure that the implant works. We were to ensure that the implant fuses with the bone so that we can get a tooth on it and little thought was given on how to make it last the longest possible.
Over the years, and as a lot more dentists started doing implants, more knowledge came to light about what happens to a dental implant. It was found that things like adding a little bit of extra bone material around a dental implant can help promote its longevity.
Nowadays, it is becoming more fashionable to add soft tissue (gum) around a dental implant to increase, or ‘augment’, it. The idea is to increase the amount of supporting tissue around a dental implant so that as the years go by, there's less risk of it getting infected from bacteria, or losing bone due to overuse.
In the past, as long as the dental implant fitted into the bone and you could get a tooth on it, that would be considered a success. These days, we are looking at how good it looks and how much bone and soft tissues are around it so that we can make sure that it lasts for a much longer time.
It takes an implant dentist who keeps up with the times and trains a lot, goes on courses, refresher courses, update courses and learns new skills as they go along. These are the factors that can be taken into account for the lifespan of the implant to be increased.
A large part of the procedure is also about how the dental team (dentist, nurses and hygienists) help the patient to understand their teeth and how to look after them. It's not just about placing a dental implant, doing lots of fancy surgery and beautiful cosmetics and then sending the patient off. It's about keeping in touch, showing them how to look after their implants and helping them to identify if a problem occurs and when to come back to us.
What should patients consider when choosing their dentists for dental implants?
Finding a dentist to provide you with dental implants can be confusing. The best way is to ask friends and family who have had a dental implant about their experience.
From a technical point of view, a dentist should ideally have postgraduate training in dental implant treatments. This can be anything from a year's course, or a diploma, or a master's degree. They need something to prove that this dentist has done the reading, training and has some experience. Ideally, three to five years’ experience in placement is usually adequate for somebody to know what they're doing.
It is also important to look at the conditions of the dental practise and notice if it is clean and if it has been sterilised properly. Of course, all dentists in the UK follow guidelines that they don't deter from, including what sort of implants and equipment that they use. Do not hesitate to ask your dentist which type of dental implant that they are going to use for you.
If you are considering having a dental implant and would like to discuss your options, book a first consultation now with Mr Abdellatif via his Top Doctor's profile.