When you lose a tooth, there are several options to restore normal function, comfort, and aesthetics in the mouth, getting your smile back to normal. Dental implants are a popular choice for those who wish to have a missing tooth, or in fact several teeth replaced. Mr Greg Finn, specialist prosthodontist, explains who implants may be suitable for, and why you might wish to consider having an implant fitted.
What are dental implants?
A dental implant is a way of replacing missing teeth or a single tooth. It can be used to support a crown or bridge, or it can be used to stabilise a denture. A lot of people find that removable dentures are not what they want as they may not be practical in some ways - removable dentures move around, they’re not very effective for eating, and food can get stuck under them. People often want to feel confidence when they eat in public, and they also want to be able to smile without having any missing teeth showing. Implants give us a way of doing this. They allow us to provide a fixed replacement for your original teeth.
How are implants fitted?
The process of having dental implant treatment starts off with a very careful assessment of the patient’s needs and whether that implant treatment is most appropriate for them. They go through an assessment which looks at how much bone there is, and how much gum is shown when they smile. We then move onto the phase where the implant fixtures are placed. Sometimes the dentist or specialist can put teeth immediately onto the fixtures but more commonly, there is a waiting period of about two to three months before building those final teeth on top, which may come in the form of single crowns, bridgework, or removable dentures that are stabilised by the implants so that they are comfortable for the patient to use and move around.
Are implants suitable for me?
Implants are suitable for most people. There is often the worry that implants cannot be fitted because of more advanced age, but even people even in their 90s have had implants successfully fitted, which significantl contribute to quality of life at that stage. The biggest problems encountered are often people who have uncontrolled gum disease. In this case, it is very important that they team up with a hygienist, or gum specialist, to make sure that the mouth is as healthy as possible before an implant is fitted, and that the patient maintains good hygiene practice.
Smokers may also encounter problems with having implants fitted, and keeping them in good condition. In order to help implants last longer and keep them looking healthy, it is imperative that smoking is under control, or the habit is given up altogether. If you need help to give up smoking, your GP or a healthcare professional can help with advice and support.