What are dental implants?
A dental implant is used to support one or more false teeth. It is a titanium screw that can replace the root of a tooth when it fails. The dental implant acts like a tooth root and is placed into the jawbone.

Are implants safe and how long will they last?
Implants are a safe, well-established treatment. It is probably true to say that implants, much like natural teeth, will last for as long as you care for them.

How well you look after your implants and whether you go for your regular maintenance appointments will have the biggest impact on how long they will last.

If you do not look after your implants they will develop a coating similar to plaque on teeth. If left untreated, this can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and general discomfort.

If your implants are in strong and healthy bone and looked after well, you can expect them to last for many years. However, as with any surgical implant, there is no lifetime guarantee.

I have some of my own teeth. Can I still have implants?
Yes. You can have any number of teeth replaced with implants – from one single tooth to a complete set.

Can implants always be used to replace missing teeth?
It depends on the condition of the bone in your jaw. The dentist will arrange for a number of special tests to assess the amount of bone. If there is not enough bone, or if it is not healthy, it may not be possible to place implants. Bone grafting into the area may be needed before implants are placed.

Do implants hurt?
Placing an implant is often easier than taking a tooth out and is usually done using a simple local anaesthetic. You will not feel any pain at the time but like an extraction, you may feel some discomfort for a few days after the surgery.

General anaesthetics are rarely used for implants and are generally only used for very complicated cases.

How long does the treatment take?
The dental team will be able to give you a rough timetable before the treatment starts.

Some false teeth can now even be fitted at the same time as the implants and these are called ‘immediate implants’. Check with the dental team to see whether these are suitable for you. Usually the false teeth are fitted 3 to 6 months after the implants are put in. Sometimes treatment may take longer and the dental team will be able to talk to you about this at your consultation.

What about aftercare?
The dental team will give you instructions on how to look after your implant. They may give you some painkillers after the surgery or make sure you have some at home to take over a few days if you need them.

What happens next?
After your implants have been placed, the bone in your jaw needs to grow onto them and fuse to them. This usually takes a few months. Sometimes the implants may be stable enough when they are placed for the false teeth to be fitted sooner than this.

If you are having one, two or three teeth replaced, you may have a temporary denture in the meantime. If you already have full dentures, you can keep wearing these while your implants are healing. Your dentures will need altering, to fit properly after the surgery, and a ‘healing cap’ will usually be placed onto the implant site to protect it.

Are the implant teeth difficult to clean?
No. But aftercare is important if you are going to have a long-lasting, successful implant. The dental team will give you detailed advice on how to look after your implants. Cleaning around the teeth attached to the implants is no more difficult than cleaning natural teeth. However, there may be areas that are difficult to reach and you will be shown how to clean them. You may need to visit your hygienist more often but the dental team will be able to talk to you about this.

If I had gum disease when I had my own teeth, will I get it with the implants?
Yes, if you do not care for them properly. If you keep them clean and have them regularly checked by the dental team you should not have any problems. Smoking also affects the health of implants. So, if you smoke after implant treatment, you may need to look after your implants more carefully. In general, the dentist will not place dental implants in people who are smokers.

Can I take the teeth out if they are fixed to implants?
Most teeth attached to implants can only be fitted and removed by the dentist. However, if you have removable dentures attached to the implants, you will be able to take them out for cleaning.

Do the implants show?
Most single implants look like a natural tooth. Multiple implants will support a bridge or dentures which will look like multiple teeth.

Do I have an implant for each missing tooth?
If you have a single tooth missing, you will need a single implant to support it.

Single Dental Implant

If there are several missing teeth and these are next to each other, you could have one implant for each tooth. Or if you have two or more implants, they may be able to support more than one tooth each. Your dentist will talk to you about the best option for you.

Implant Supported Bridge

An implant supported bridge can be used when there are several teeth missing together. For example, if there are 3 missing teeth, 2 dental implants can be placed in the jawbone and a bridge can be produced consisting of 3 crowns. The bridge is then secured to the implants.

 

Multiple Implants

One option for full mouth restoration in either the upper or lower jaw is where multiple implants are placed and used to support a full set of teeth on a bridge.

 

Multiple Implants

Another option is multiple dental implants supporting a full set of removable dentures.

 

What if I have an accident?
Implants and the teeth they support can be damaged by an accident in the same way that natural teeth can. So it is important that you wear a professionally made mouthguard if you play sports that involve contact or moving objects. If the teeth are damaged, they can usually be removed from the implant and replaced.

However, if the titanium implant itself is damaged beyond repair, it can be safely left in the jaw if it is too difficult to remove. Another implant may be fitted alongside it to replace the damaged one.

What happens if the implant does not fuse with the bone?
This happens very rarely. If the implant becomes loose during the healing period, or just after, it is easily removed and your jaw will heal in the normal way. Once your jaw has healed, another implant can be placed there. Or the dentist can make a bridge, fitting it to the implanted false teeth that have been successful.

How much will it cost?
In many situations, the cost of the treatment is only a little more than the cost of more conventional dental treatment with crowns and bridges. Over the longer term, implants are usually a more cost-effective and satisfactory option.

There are other advantages to implants, too. If you have an implant to replace a single tooth, there is no need to cut down the teeth either side of it. If you had a bridge, the dentist would need to do this and fit crowns to these teeth to support the bridge.

Normal dentures often mean that eating and drinking are affected because the dentures may move about. But teeth attached to an implant do not cause this problem, because they are anchored to the bone more firmly than natural teeth.