A dental implant is an artificial replacement for the root of a tooth. If you have lost a tooth then an implant, made from titanium, can be fixed into the jawbone in the gap. The implant can then support a crown or bridge to replace the tooth.
What are dental implants used for?
Dental implants are used to replace lost teeth, which may have been lost from trauma (such as boxing), old age or gum disease. A denture or bridge can be used to replace the lost tooth, but implants provide a longer-term solution, slow down bone loss and maintain the health of nearby teeth.
Dental implants look extremely natural and give a sturdy tooth replacement that can last many years if looked after. Implants can also give very strong support to dentures, allowing normal speech and ability to eat hard foods such as apples.
How are dental implants inserted?
Your dentist will first need to assess your teeth and gums, and treat any decay or gum disease. You will then need x-rays or scans to assess the bone quality.
Under anaesthesia the gum is cut and lifted in the gap where the implant is to be inserted. The bone can then be drilled, allowing the titanium implant to be snugly fitted; the gum is then stitched back down.
The bone will then grow into the implant, giving a stronger fit. This takes up to 6 months to occur - in the meantime, a temporary tooth (bridge) can be used to fill the gap.
Once the bone has healed, the gum is lifted again to attach a temporary post and crown to the implant. After about a month the final stage can take place, with attachment of the permanent tooth replacement.
If you don't have enough bone for the implant then a bone graft may need to be used - bone is taken from the chin, back of jaw or hip and put into the jawbone to build it up. The implant can be inserted once the jawbone is of good enough quality.
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You may also be interested to read our articles on Bridges, Crowns, Dentures, Tooth straightening, Tooth whitening, or Veneers
The information provided is as a guide only and you should discuss matters fully with your specialist before deciding which procedure is right for you. Please also read our disclaimer