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What Exactly Are Dental Implants?

We've assembled an introduction to dental implants to try to dispel some myths.

What do we mean by a dental implant?

A dental implant is a special type of titanium alloy screw used to form a base structure to replace lost teeth.

It achieves this by counterfeiting the lost root portion and creating a new base to which the existing bone can fuse.

This in turn creates a strong, durable and dependable foundation on which a new tooth can be placed.

Implanted teeth are made to look and perform like your natural teeth and require no special cleaning measures beyond that of a normal oral hygiene routine.

Implants are not only an excellent choice for replacing lost teeth but can also provide a secure way to sit dentures, or indeed a viable permanent alternative to a dental bridge.

In this article, we will delve much deeper into the good and the potentially bad sides of dental implants and to thoroughly explain the processes and procedures required. Should you have any resulting questions or enquiries not covered here, please call us on 01392 278843 or message us at where our highly experienced and knowledgeable staff can assist you further.

What is the longevity of a dental implant?

The honest answer is that it actually depends largely on the patient. The alloy and procedure used are now so practised and advanced that implants can potentially last a lifetime.

Insufficient dental hygiene however can be a major obstacle to a dental implant bedding in correctly, and there are also some medical conditions which make implantation non-viable which will be covered later.

Providing these aspects are well maintained and accounted for the implant should be a very sound and trustworthy choice for tooth replacement. This is due to a combination of factors that create a very solid connection between root and tooth.

How an implant works

  1. The implant screw is surgically embedded into the jawbone itself to create a root for the crown.

  2. Once stage 1 has healed, a metal connector called an abutment is placed into the implant to secure the new crown in place.

  3. The crown is a ceramic false tooth mounted onto the abutment and fashioned to look and function like a natural tooth.

As a cautionary word, the crown and abutment are potentially more likely to break than the implant itself due to them being more active in the biting and chewing mechanisms, so some care is advised especially in the initial post-operative phase while the connection is fusing.

As mentioned with attentive brushing and flossing the implant itself can last a lifetime and we always advise that you attend your regular scheduled check-ups to ensure an implant’s continued health and performance.

The crown itself will eventually begin to wear and it is likely that somewhere between 10 to 15 years a replacement crown would be needed, however as with all things dental, your hygiene is a key factor in this and you could get many more years than expected if excellent oral hygiene is maintained.

Where in your mouth the implant is placed can also be a pivotal factor in how long your implant may last due to how often and how much pressure the implant is required to sustain. Implants in the rear of the mouth are used more often and so are more likely to wear out faster.

One of the greatest plus sides to dental implants is that they are a long-term placement option that with correct care and maintenance will behave just like a normal tooth.

Dental implants are essentially a like-for-like substitute and this means they don’t slip or hurt as dentures often do, and because they are fixed to the interior of the jawbone, implants won’t put pressure on the adjoining teeth as a bridge often can. For all of these reasons, dental implants are often the dentist recommended choice for patients looking to replace lost teeth.

When considering whether to replace a lost tooth it is also highly important to note that when a tooth is lost the jawbone beneath it will begin to shrink, dental implants re-stimulate the jawbone and can actively prevent further bone loss.

Before concluding this section, it is important to reiterate that there are patients that are NOT suitable for dental implants.

Lifestyle behaviours such as smoking and drinking are of significant detriment, and pre-existing medical conditions such as diabetes, cancer and gum disease may also preclude patients from dental implantation.

It is of extreme importance that this is checked beforehand, so the best advice is to check with your dental professional with ANY medical condition before choosing this option.

Here is a brief list of the key indicators that cause dental implantation to fail, or to not be viable:

  • Gum disease

  • Recreational Drug use

  • Significant alcohol consumption

  • Previous radiotherapy in or around jaw

  • Smoking (including e-cigs or chew tobacco)

  • Poorly controlled Diabetes

All of these factors can and in most cases will significantly impact how the implant fuses and develops and as a result, the safety and likelihood of a successful long-lasting process.

How safe are dental implants?

Due to the way in which the implant is formed, implants are considered safe, reliable and durable. Complications can mainly occur in the aftercare phase so as long as your implants are well-maintained and diligently looked after you should have no issues.

Problems that can develop would mirror those of normal neglected teeth, beginning with bacteria build-up and leading to more serious implications such as infection, soreness, bleeding and swelling.

Another critical component to a strong lasting implant is the foundation on which it is built. Strong healthy bone is essential to a lasting and correctly performing implant and it is critical you speak to a qualified and registered dental practitioner who will review all of this prior to advising on the best course of action.

Another attractive feature of dental implants is that multiple implants can be fitted alongside each other without diminishing their strength or effectiveness.

Critically the health and performance of the remaining natural teeth is also not impaired so there is no ‘trade-off’ as there may be with other options.

Does fitting an implant hurt?

The fitting procedure is usually one of the easier orthodontic treatments and is ordinarily performed under local anaesthetic. There should be no pain during the fitting but as with any extraction procedure, you may feel some discomfort and unfamiliarity in the days following.

Some cases may be slightly more difficult or intricate and in this case, the dentist may offer a sedative as an additional measure but all will be fully explained and accounted for prior to surgery.

The use of general anaesthetic for dental implants is very rare and only applied in the case of a much more complicated procedure, and again in this case, all would be fully explained.

Can I get dental implants on the NHS?

You may want to check with your own NHS dentist but to our knowledge, the NHS will only cater to the more serious and complicated dental implant cases.

In most instances, dental implants must be sourced privately and though more expensive than crowns and bridges, they are proven to provide a more dependable and durable result long-term.

Stages and timeline of the implant procedure?

Firstly, an initial appointment is required to assess the situation. X-rays will be taken to look at the work required and should implantation be viable, this will be performed by Ben Pearson, our senior dentist.

The implant is left in the gum for a period of around 3 months as it heals and fuses to the bone.

Once ready, the next stage is to remove the top covering of the implant and a mould of your teeth is taken to assess how the new porcelain crown or bridge should be made.

Around 2 weeks later, the dental attachment will be fitted and ready to use as a normal tooth, with the patient of course adhering strictly to all instructions and advice.

Important questions you may want to ask your dentist:

Often, in medical situations, we can be bamboozled by terminology and agree to things without knowing fully what is going to happen.

For peace of mind, we advise having questions in place to ask your dentist at the initial consultation.

Here are a few questions that may be of use:

  • An explanation of the treatment

  • Any other alternatives

  • The end-to-end cost

  • The dentist's background in the procedure

  • A well-defined treatment plan and any guarantees

Dental implantation can be expensive and if done correctly invaluable.

Be sure of what you need, and why you need it and you can follow this path without concern or regret.

Always ask for a second opinion if you are not satisfied with the initial response and ask any questions you’d like the answers to.

At Life Dental and Wellbeing we specialise in many forms of dentistry including dental implantation, bridge and crown work and thorough bespoke aftercare.

Our award-winning practice is situated in the heart of Exeter and continues to grow and flourish as a representation of our experience, dedication and commitment to providing the best dental care and advice possible.

For any questions, you may have concerning dental implants, or indeed any other dental concerns, please call our team now on 01392 278843 or email and we will do our best to assist.

Rebekah Pearson
Rebekah Pearson
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Or for emergencies call 01392 278843