Everything You Should Know About Dental Implants

Missing teeth can be a struggle to deal with. They can make eating and speaking a bit of a problem. Plus, it can really affect your confidence. While there are many ways to restore lost teeth, dentists would usually say that dental implants are the most recommended tooth replacement option. Dental implants are not only functional and efficient – they’re also one of the most versatile and life-changing treatments available today.

In this blog post, we’ll dispel some of the myths about dental implants and discuss everything you need to know about this revolutionary treatment so that you can make an informed decision.

What Are Dental Implants?

what are dental implants?

Nowadays, patients seek long-lasting treatments for their dental concerns. For patients with missing teeth, dental implants can give them a future with new opportunities. Tooth loss caused by a variety of factors, like poor oral hygiene and congenital abnormalities, is commonly restored with dental implants. With a dental implant, an artificial tooth root is placed in the jawbone, providing a strong foundation for a replacement tooth. By replacing both the root and the tooth, an implant differs from other tooth replacement options.

Dental implants are meant to function as replacement tooth roots. They are usually composed of titanium alloy. Titanium is a bio-compatible metal that is resistant to fracturing and corrosion. As implants are placed into the jawbone, the material must be compatible with bone tissue. This makes the integration of the implant with the bone more likely.

There are many ways in which dental implants can be used to support or replace partial or full dentures, as well as to replace a single tooth or many teeth. As implants are surgically affixed inside the mouth, no adhesives are required to hold them in place since they remain in place with little to no movement. In terms of restoration options, dental implants are the most natural looking and are a good solution for replacing a missing tooth or a badly damaged tooth. In addition to this, they are a great alternative to dentures as well.

When Are Dental Implants Necessary?

There are a number of other options to replace missing teeth, but dental implants are a welcome alternative. In the case of dentures, for instance, the denture can fall out, while bridges may eventually fit poorly, resulting in wear and tear on the nearby teeth as a result. The dental implants will act as the roots of the missing teeth, thereby providing a strong foundation for the false teeth to be attached.

The majority of people who are in good health enough to undergo a routine dental extraction or oral surgery will be eligible for a dental implant in most cases. It is important that patients have healthy gums and sufficient bone to hold the implant in place. In addition, they must also make a commitment to maintaining good oral hygiene and to visiting the dentist regularly. Patients suffering from uncontrolled chronic disorders, such as diabetes or heart disease, or those who have received radiation therapy to the neck or head area should be evaluated more thoroughly based on their medical history and current condition.

If you are in good health, you may consider asking your dentist about dental implants if you have the following problems:

  • When you have missing teeth 
    • For patients with missing teeth, dental implants are a good long-term treatment option. A dental implant will take the place of the missing tooth, completing your smile. This is good news for patients struggling with eating due to missing teeth or being self-conscious of their appearance. 
  • When you have loose dental prosthetics
    • When dental prosthetics like dentures or bridges are ill-fitting, they pose several different problems. They can cause discomfort and gum irritation due to the shifting and movement that can occur. Patients also adapt their way of talking to accommodate for the loose prosthetic. Speech can be slurred or unclear in their effort to avoid their dentures from falling out. Using adhesives to keep dentures in place can also cause irritation and is usually messy. 
  • When your tooth needs to be extracted
    • In some cases, your dentist may recommend removing a tooth due to extensive damage or serious infection. If your tooth cannot be saved, you may want to consider dental implants to replace them after extraction. Implants are known to be as strong and durable as natural teeth. 
  • When you have a sunken-in facial appearance
    • After prolonged denture use, one will notice a sunken-in look around the mouth and chin. This is due to bone regression that occurs when the jawbone remains unstimulated. With natural teeth, the forces that your tooth roots transmit to the jawbone when you bite down keep your bone strong.

Who Is Not A Candidate for Dental Implants?

During your consultation, your dentist should be able to discern whether the placement of dental implants can be recommended for your particular case. There are patients who are advised not to undergo dental implant treatment. This is generally for their own safety as they may be at greater risk for complications. These are some of the reasons why patients are refused dental implants:

  • Certain Medications
    • Patients who are taking certain medications may not be good candidates for dental implants. Some chemotherapy drugs, bisphosphonates, or corticosteroids can cause bone cell death or osteonecrosis. Osteonecrosis can occur at any point in the bone and typically causes them to have structural abnormalities. This will result in weak and brittle bones or predispose them to arthritis if cell death occurs near a joint. 
  • Ongoing Dental or Periodontal Problems 
    • The main requirement for dental implant surgery is a healthy set of teeth and gums. Any signs of infection or disease need to be addressed prior to the start of the treatment. Patients who have a history of gum disease in the past will need to improve their oral hygiene habits.
  • Insufficient Bone Mass or Density 
    • For dental implant success, a stable foundation must be established. This will require the jawbone mass and density to be sufficient enough to support the small titanium screw-like posts. Following the loss of a tooth, the surrounding bone tends to recede. There may be a need for bone grafts prior to the instalment of a dental implant to mitigate the bone deficiency. One downside of bone augmentation is the prolonged healing period following the procedure. The bone will need to mature before an implant can be placed. 
  • Lifestyle Habits
    • Habits like poor oral hygiene, excessive drinking, or smoking can negatively affect your oral condition. Dental implant patients need to be committed to maintaining good oral hygiene to avoid complications and infections over the course of the treatment. Ideally, one should not smoke while having dental implants installed because it can interfere with the healing process and lengthen the treatment time.

What Benefits Do Dental Implants Offer?

Benefits of dental implants

Dental implants offer a high treatment success rate. Due to the diligence of dental professionals in determining the candidacy of patients for the treatment, only patients who will benefit from the treatment are subjected to the rigours of the lengthy process. Patients can look forward to enjoying the many benefits associated with dental implants during their treatment. These include:

  • Improved appearance
    • Dental implants can be matched to look and feel just like your natural teeth. Under the care of a skilled dental practitioner, the implant should blend seamlessly with your other teeth. You will no longer have to worry about any gaps in your smile. 
  • Improved function
    • Using dentures that fit poorly can cause you to mumble when you speak for fear of them falling out. Eating can also be difficult or uncomfortable. One of the biggest advantages of dental implants is how securely they are attached to your jaw. You will not have to worry about them falling out or moving around. This makes everyday activities like eating and talking more comfortable. 
  • Improved self-confidence
    • With your new and improved smile, you will have a renewed sense of confidence. By feeling more at ease with your smile and how secure your artificial teeth feel, you can stop shying away from social gatherings. 
  • Improved oral health
    • Unlike tooth-supported bridges, the dental implant procedure does not alter any of the adjacent teeth. Your healthy teeth are left intact, as implants rely on their integration with your jawbone for support. With more of your natural teeth unchanged, long-term oral health can be improved.
  • Minimized bone loss
    • Dental implants are the only tooth replacement option that maintains jawbone health. Normally, the force transmitted whenever you bite down is transmitted to the bone via the tooth and its roots. It is the nature of bones to adapt to the stress or demand placed upon them. With dentures and bridges, little to no force is transmitted into the jawbone. Unfortunately, this makes bones weaken over time. The metal implant acts as the artificial tooth root and successfully transmits the necessary force to keep your jawbone healthy. 
  • Convenience
    • With dental implants, the need for messy adhesives is eliminated. Unlike removable dentures, your implants won’t require any additional maintenance. You will simply have to brush and care for your implants as you would your real teeth.

What Happens During the Procedure?

The dental implant procedure is known for taking a long time to complete. It takes longer than most treatments because of the various stages involved. A dental implant typically requires several dental appointments over several months to fully install. Listed below are the steps involved in the dental implant process.

Initial Consultation
A consultation with your dentist is the first step in the dental implant process. You will undergo a comprehensive oral examination to determine if you qualify for dental implants. X-rays and 3D imaging can be used in conjunction with visual inspection to determine jawbone density. A personalized treatment plan will be prepared by your dentist based on this information. To minimize the risk of clinical complications, you will also likely be asked a series of health questions.

Dental Implant Placement
There is no need for additional invasive procedures like bone augmentation or sinus grafting if a dental implant can be placed. This procedure involves cutting the gum tissue and pulling it away from the implant site. You will then be able to see the underlying bone where the endosteal implant will be implanted. After approximately six months, osseointegration will occur, securing the foundation of the metal implant.

Abutment Installation
Osseointegration indicates that the implant has successfully fused with the surrounding connective tissue. Once osseointegration has been achieved, you will be able to undergo a second surgery to install the abutment. In order to expose the healed implant, the gum tissue will be cut open again. The abutment is then fitted into place. The abutment remains visible above the gum line initially, but the prosthetic will cover it once it is attached.

Dental Prosthetic Placement
During the latter’s fitting, the dental prosthetic can be cemented into the abutment according to the patient’s tolerance. It may be necessary for some patients to return for a final fitting of the permanent dental prosthesis. After your prosthetic is cemented into place, you will have a few days to test and feel for any changes in the alignment of your bite or any sudden issues with the implant. The soft tissue will heal, and you will be able to smile brightly once you have adjusted to your new teeth.

Is Getting Dental Implants Painful?

In spite of its invasive nature, the dental implant procedure itself is not painful. Your dentist will use general or local anesthesia to keep you comfortable and numb the affected area. While under general anesthesia, you will be unconscious and unaware of the procedure. Conversely, you may feel some pressure in the area but no pain with local anesthesia.

As the anesthesia begins to wear off, you can expect to feel mild discomfort or pain. Any major discomfort or pain during recovery may be due to an infection or an improperly fitted implant. It is important to note that the recovery is not usually as bad as expected. Typical areas of discomfort are the chin, cheeks, or underneath the eyes.

Discomfort will completely subside around ten days after the procedure. Your dentist will prescribe you antibiotics and painkillers for the swelling and pain to make your recovery more comfortable. Two weeks after your procedure, you should expect to be pain-free. The implant site should be healing with no signs of swelling in the area. Any complications during your recovery should be discussed with your dentist immediately.

How Long Is Dental Implant Recovery?

Dental implant treatment is known to take several months. However, this may not always be the case. No two patients will have exactly similar experiences with the healing process. Several factors come into play when considering the recovery time of a patient.

  • Number of Implants
    • The complexity of the implant procedure will depend heavily on the number of implants to be placed. Each placement will cause trauma to the gum and bone tissues, requiring healing in different sites along the jaw. 
  • Type of Implant Procedure
    • With a relatively fuss-free procedure, patients should only feel discomfort for a few weeks. Without the need for additional procedures like bone grafting, the recovery time between procedures is greatly reduced. Resumption of your regular diet should be possible after 7-10 days. 
  • Location of Implant
    • Implants placed in the lower jaw require a bone healing time of four months, while implants in the upper jaw require a healing time of six months. There is a time contrast between the upper and lower jaws because of differing bone tissue structures and loading levels applied to the chewing surfaces of the teeth.

What Are The Risks Of The Dental Implant Procedure?

Risks of dental implant procedure

Before proceeding with any dental procedure, your dentist will discuss several things with you to make sure that you can make an informed decision regarding your treatment. This discussion will include the steps of the procedure, the expected healing time, and the risks and complications that may occur.

Similar to most surgeries, the dental implant procedure carries some risks. Although complications rarely occur, it is important you understand these risks and know how to spot any red flag symptoms after your surgery.

  • Infection 
    • Active infection can set in when bacteria enter the open surgical wound. This is more likely to occur in patients who have poor dental hygiene. Food debris can get caught between teeth and are a good breeding ground for bacteria. 
  • Injury or damage to surrounding structures
    • Improper placement of dental implants can injure the surrounding dental and oral structures. Poorly-fitting dental prosthetics can disrupt the normal bite pattern and alignment. With continued use, damage to the crown or roots of the surrounding teeth can occur. 
  • Nerve damage
    • Pain or numbness can occur around the area of the mouth and jaw with damage to the nerves of the face. During the implant placement stage, your dentist must be careful to map out the location of the metal implant rods. They will need to avoid any superficial or nearby nerves. 
  • Allergic reactions
    • A small percentage of dental patients suffer from titanium allergies. They will not respond well to the placement of a titanium post into the jawbone. An alternative tooth material option can be used, like zirconia.

Can Implant Failure Occur?

Dental implant failure is a severe complication of the implant procedure that requires the removal of the dental implant. Although its occurrence is rare, implant failure can occur in some patients. Unlike organ transplants, implant failure usually occurs due to issues with the patient’s general health status or post-operative care.

Dental implants usually fail due to two main reasons: peri-implantitis and failed osseointegration. Resulting from improper dental care following surgery, peri-implantitis is a severe gum infection that includes bone involvement. Without immediate action, you may lose not just your implant but the adjacent natural teeth as well. Failed osseointegration refers to the failure of the surrounding bone to sufficiently grow around the implant. No stable foundation is established for the dental implant. Smoking tobacco has been known to interfere with the integration process.

The most common sign of implant failure is the instability of the dental implant. Patients complain of feeling their dental implant moving when they talk or eat. These are the other typical symptoms associated with dental implant failure. You should immediately inform your dentist regarding the presence of any of these symptoms.

  • Notable movement of the implant 
  • Severe pain and discomfort
  • Gum recession around the implant
  • Difficulty in chewing and biting 
  • Swollen gums 
  • Sudden allergic reactions to the implant

How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?

Dental implants are known to be the most functional and natural-looking dental replacement option. They are also expected to last longer than most other options. All of these benefits and the complexity of the procedure contribute to the cost of treatment.

In Western Australia, a single tooth implant can cost $2,600 to $4,000. With the increase in the number of teeth to be replaced, you can expect a subsequent increase in treatment cost. Implant-supported bridges will cost upwards of $6,000. The replacement for an entire set of teeth through an All-On-4 dental implant is the most costly option, starting at $21,000.

All pricing is estimated based on the average cost of treatment in the location among several different dental practices. To get accurate pricing for the dental implant that most suits your needs, you should call your dentist and schedule a consultation.

How Do You Take Care of Your Implant?

Dental implants are known for lasting for many decades when properly maintained. As they are comparable to natural teeth, your diet will not need to change once your implants are fully healed. The maintenance of dental implants is simple and similar to how you would normally care for your real teeth.

Your dentist plays an essential role in maintaining your dental health following dental implant treatment. It is important that you schedule regular dental check-ups. This will give them the opportunity to inspect the condition of not just your implant but also your other teeth. As much as possible, you should strive to maintain the health of your original teeth.

As the recipient of the dental implant, your role in the longevity and success of your dental implant cannot be overly stressed. Your day-to-day dental habits greatly affect the condition of your implants.

These are some tips on caring for your dental implants at home.

  1. Clean your teeth and implant at least twice daily with a soft-bristle toothbrush. 
  2. Use toothpaste that is less or non-abrasive. 
  3. Floss daily with unwaxed tape or implant-specific floss. 
  4. Use an antiseptic mouthwash to rinse if unable to wash away food debris from the tooth surface. 
  5. For overdentures, remove them daily and soak them in the recommended cleaner to clean.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, dental implants are a revolutionary dental treatment to replace missing or severely damaged teeth. They offer a wide range of benefits, like longevity and a convincingly natural appearance. In fact, the untrained eye should not be able to spot the difference between a dental implant and your natural teeth.

Like any surgical procedure, getting dental implants poses some risks. One will need to be vigilant in caring for their new implants, especially as the surrounding tissue recovers from the surgery. As there are several procedures that occur during the course of dental implant treatment, it will take some time before you are able to fully enjoy the benefits the tooth replacements offer. However, with the high success rate for the treatment, it is definitely worth the wait.

If you are interested in determining whether dental implants are a good fit for you, our friendly team at Peel Dental Studio would be more than happy to join you on your dental implant journey. You can reach the clinic by calling (08) 9535 4900 from Monday to Friday. Dental implants offer life-changing results. Let us help you reclaim your beautiful smile.

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Peel Dental Studio

https://peeldentalstudio.com.au

Dr. Bailey formerly served on the Australian Dental Association as President, Vice President Treasurer and Country Councillor. He was on the Australian Dental Association Federal Council and has always been keen to give back to the profession that has been his life. He has tutored student dentists at the Oral Health Centre in Perth.