It wasn’t that long ago that people used to have to put up with missing teeth… Smiling with a hand over their mouth, getting food stuck in between every time they eat and possibly putting up with headaches and other jaw joint or biting problems as a result of a lost tooth.
In recent years tooth replacement has become far easier with the advent of dental implants. Coupled with this dental bridges have improved with technology also making them a beautiful false teeth option.
What Is A Dental Implant?
Put simply a dental implant is a high precision dental titanium alloy which is manufactured to mimic the natural tooth root. The dental implant in itself doesn’t actually replace any missing teeth, it simply provides an anchor onto which dental crowns or bridges are attached.
If at all possible a dental implant is often placed into the hole where the tooth has been extracted immediately after the extraction. This can help to lessen any bone loss which often occurs when teeth are removed or traumatically lost.
How Do Implants Replace Missing Teeth?
Once the implant has fully integrated into your bone (this takes anywhere between 3 and 6 months) the final restoration can be placed on top. Inside the dental implant is a very small screw hole; your new crown, bridge or denture can then be screwed into the dental implant.
If you have many teeth to replace you may find that the dental implant houses a little popper stud or magnet. You then have a full denture which either clicks onto this popper or magnet.
How Are Dental Implants Used?
Dental implants are used in a variety of ways to help a whole range of different people:
- Replacing a single missing tooth. In this case a single dental implant is placed on top of which a dental Crown is attached.
- Replacing 2-4 missing teeth. Typically a dental bridge would be used in this case. Dental implants are usually placed at either end of the area in which the teeth are missing. A dental bridge can then be used to bridge the gap and replace all of the missing teeth.
- Replacement of all missing teeth. Bizarrely it’s often possible to replace all missing teeth using only 2 implants, this is by either having magnets or attachments on top of the implants which the denture clicks onto. Sometimes however to replace all missing teeth patients require a fixed alternative. If this is the case then usually four implants are used and a permanent bridge is attached once the implant healing process has finished.
- Stabilisation of dentures. People with dentures often find that they can be loose and wobbly, which can get worse as people age. Dental implants can then be retrospectively used; they are placed into the patient’s jaw and the inside of the denture is modified to click onto these new dental implants.
What Is The Dental Implant Process?
The process to place a dental implant is broken down into several different stages.
- Diagnosis and planning. The 1st stage of implants is often accompanied by extensive planning. This is to work out the exact anatomy of your jaw to ensure the dental implant sits in exactly the right place. A CT scan is often used as well as diagnostic impressions, models and mockups made by a dental technician.
- Implant placement. After the planning has gone ahead and you can see what the result may look like from the mockup, the implants will be placed. This is a surgical procedure often undertaken by a periodontist.
- Healing. You will then be allowed to heal for approximately 3-6 months. This allows the implant to fully integrate.
- Restoration. After the healing phase the final restoration can begin and you will see the result of treatment.
The whole process can often take up to a year so if you want to replace missing teeth with dental implants it’s highly recommended that you begin thinking about it as soon as possible.
Dental implants can last a lifetime. Whilst they may often be perceived as an expensive option (particularly full mouth dental implants), the fact they last for so many years and are used all day everyday makes them a very good investment in your smile and life.
What Is A Dental Bridge?
Whilst a dental implant and dental bridge do exactly the same thing (provide a false tooth to replace the missing tooth) they do it in entirely different ways.
A dental bridge requires suspension of that new false tooth from the teeth either side of the gap. In some circumstances a single missing tooth can be suspended from only one side; this is known as a cantilever bridge.
One of the biggest disadvantages with a dental bridge is that it requires removal of possibly healthy tooth structure on either side of the gap. This is to provide adequate support for the supporting mechanisms which hold the new false tooth.
Another problem with dental bridges is that when you have a tooth extracted it leaves a hole in the bone. New bone doesn’t generate in this hole; rather the surrounding bone collapses into it. As the bone collapses you have a loss of bone height and therefore gum in this area. (This is one reason dental implants can be one of the best ways to replace missing teeth as the implant provide support for the bone).
What then happens is that this resorption continues for years after a tooth has been lost. If a dental bridge is made onto this area the bridge can initially look really good, but after time and as the bone resorbs, a gap can form underneath the bridge.
This can look unsightly and can cause food to get trapped which can lead to oral health problems such as halitosis.
This is one of the main reasons that most dentists prefer dental implant false teeth rather than dental bridges.
Richard Siggers has spent many years in the dental industry in the UK and now spends his time creating and writing articles to help people understand more about how to look after their teeth and maintain good oral health.