What can I do about a missing tooth?
A missing tooth is actually very common. In fact, around 27 million of us in the UK have lost at least one tooth, with over 50% of adults missing two or more. The risks of tooth loss greatly increase with age and it is estimated that, by their mid-60’s, the average person could have four or more teeth missing.
Teeth can be lost in a number of ways; from severe decay or an accident to infection in the tooth, gum disease and failed dental treatments.
If you have a missing tooth or loose ill-fitting dentures then dental implants could provide you with a viable and permanent solution to the personal and practical issues that this can cause.
Eating, speaking and even general self-esteem can be greatly affected due to a missing tooth and dental implants can significantly help to improve quality of life and self-confidence- helping you to feel happy about smiling again.
Depending on your overall health, implants are generally suitable for people of all ages and no matter what the condition of your teeth, there are a number of treatments available to help restore your smile and improve your quality of life. For many people, dental implants are a safe, long-term solution offering strong and natural looking replacements which feel just as secure as their existing teeth.
What are the benefits of dental implants?
There are a number of benefits to replacing missing teeth with dental implants;
- Dentures can have a tendency to move around in your mouth. Implants stay in place – helping to keep discomfort and pain to a minimum.
- Dental implants help to protect the jawbone and prevent other teeth from moving around. They also stop food getting stuck in gaps and potentially causing gum disease.
- Dental implants can help to greatly improve speech- as well as any problems that you may have when eating and chewing particular foods, yet they do not affect remaining teeth in any way.
- The benefits with regard to self-confidence and lifestyle can be significant -particularly for those who feel sensitive about their appearance due to a missing tooth.
- Dental implants are a well-established, safe and effective way of replacing one, several or even all of your teeth if required.
The risks of a missing tooth
The loss of one or more teeth can have a considerable impact not just on your everyday life but on your dental health too. When chewing food, your healthy teeth naturally strengthen your jawbone, however in those places where teeth are missing the jawbone can start to shrink because it is no longer being stimulated. In time, this can cause sagging- leading to premature ageing of the skin on your face- particularly if you have a number of teeth missing.
As well as this, your teeth all form part of an intricate structure with each sitting alongside the other ensuring they all stay in line- gaps can mean that other teeth start to move or twist. Food can also get trapped in the spaces potentially causing tooth decay and gum disease.
How does a Dental Implant work?
Dental implants replace the roots of your natural teeth and support a manufactured crown or bridge.
Your natural tooth consists of two parts- the crown, which is what you see in your mouth and the root which is under the gum and holds the tooth in place. Dental implants are designed to best replicate this natural tooth structure – with the crown being made of porcelain to look like a natural tooth and the dental implant made of strong titanium acting as the root. Titanium is well tolerated by the body and once implanted in the jaw, bone grows onto the surfaces of the implant effectively fusing it to the surrounding bone- creating a solid and strong base.
Good general health is important if you want dental implant surgery. Patients with diabetes or who are heavy smokers have a greater risk of developing gum disease or infections following implant surgery. It is also important to remember to maintain a good oral hygiene routine after the procedure. If you don’t clean your implants properly, they will develop a coat of residue, like plaque forms on natural teeth. This can lead to gum infection, bleeding, soreness and discomfort.
Overall, healthy gums and jawbone are the main factors taken into consideration when deciding if dental implants are suitable for a particular patient. For those with less bone volume as a result of previous gum disease there is the option of bone grafting. A sinus lift can also be used to help rebuild any missing bone on the back of the upper jaw. In both cases, this would add significantly to treatment time as healing needs to take place before implants can be fitted.
How long does it take?
Where the insertion of implants is relatively straight forward it usually only takes around 15 minutes. Following this, the implants will require some time to integrate with the jaw bone. This can take between 3 and 6 months depending on where they have been fitted. Temporary restoration and full dentures can be worn throughout the recovery process until it is possible to fit the final crown. Each treatment is unique and your requirements will be discussed with you prior to commencement. Long term care is vital and regular check-ups and other maintenance will be scheduled as required.
How long will they last?
Over 95% of implants are successful and with good levels of oral health and regular long-term care they can last for 15 years or more.
Is it painful?
Implants usually take place under a local anaesthetic so you will not feel any pain during the procedure, although you may experience some discomfort for a week or two afterwards. If you are particularly nervous or your case is more complex, then a sedative may be considered. Overall, placing an implant is generally easier than removing a tooth.