Advances in technology have allowed dental implants to become an increasingly popular and ever more accessible method for replacing missing, or soon-to-be removed teeth.
Whilst implants often prove to be a fantastic long-term solution for many people, it is important to learn as much as possible about the advantages, limitations and available alternatives, so that you can make an informed decision about whether or not they are right for you.
What are dental implants and how do they work?
Dental implants are small, threaded titanium components which are carefully placed into the jaw. Acting like replacement roots, the implants are strategically positioned to occupy gaps left by missing teeth. Through a process known as ‘osseointegration’, the surrounding bone naturally heals and fuses with the implant, resulting in a firm, secure anchor which dental prosthetics (crowns, bridges or dentures) can be attached to.
What are some of the advantages of dental implants?
- Dental implants are often the most natural looking (and feeling) option available when it comes to replacing missing teeth: In fact, when expertly fitted by a skilled dentist, high quality implants will be virtually indistinguishable from natural teeth, in terms of appearance and how they work.
- As the implants sit below the gum-line, the only parts which are visible to the naked eye are the artificial tooth elements that you are replacing.
- Dental implants directly link to the jawbone so that individual teeth can be replaced, without the need for support from neighbouring teeth as you would find with a bridge: This minimises the need for potentially destructive work on healthy teeth next to the space.
- Implants can also be used to stabilise full or partial dentures. In such a scenario, the implants have special press stud like attachments which connect to the dentures, to lock them in place for added confidence and improved functionality. This option can prove to be more cost-effective than replacing each tooth individually.
- Unlike dentures or bridges, which simply cover up gaps left by missing teeth, implants transfer chewing loads to the jaw, the chewing forces in turn can help to prevent bone-loss and shrinkage that you often see where a bridge or denture is used to replace missing teeth.
- Despite having a higher initial cost than other forms of tooth replacement, dental implants are designed to last significantly longer than dentures or bridges, meaning that you could save money in the long-run.
How can I tell if implants are suitable for me?
Like all technologies, dental implants have some limitations which mean that they are not suitable for everyone. One limiting factor, for example, is the amount of bone available to allow the implant to be attached to. While this rarely precludes the use of dental implants, a lack of bone may mean that we cannot create a perfect appearance where the replaced tooth emerges from the gum.
As with all surgical procedures, there are a great many factors that need to be taken into consideration on an individual basis to determine whether or not you are suitable for this type of treatment.
Modern techniques mean that dental implants are available now to more patients than ever before so it is rare to find a situation where there are no implant based treatment options open to you. Equally in order to make sure that you can benefit from dental implants and have the widest range of choices and options it is best to arrange a consultation before a tooth is removed or as soon afterwards as possible.