What Is A Dental Implant? Everything You Need To Know

Your smile plays a crucial role in your overall appearance and confidence. Unfortunately, various conditions like gum disease, tooth decay, and periodontal disease, as well as incidents leading to damaged teeth, can compromise your smile by causing missing teeth. But don’t worry. In the domain of dental treatment, a revolutionary solution known as dental implants have emerged as an efficient and reliable way to restore missing or damaged teeth, enhancing your oral health and restoring your radiant smile.

What is a Dental Implant?

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A dental implant, as defined by the Australian Dental Association, is an artificial tooth root that a dental professional places into your jawbone, essentially creating a robust foundation for replacement teeth. Made usually from biocompatible materials like titanium, the dental implant mimics the structure and function of natural tooth roots, offering support for an artificial tooth or teeth (also referred to as tooth prosthesis). This procedure is an integral part of implant dentistry.

Different Types of Dental Implants

  • Endosteal implants:

These are the most common type of dental implants and are directly inserted into the jaw bone. This type of implant is used for single tooth replacement as well as to secure a bridge or dentures.

  • Subperiosteal implants:

Rather than being inserted into the bone, these implants consist of a metal frame that is carefully placed onto the jawbone, just below the gum tissue. During the healing process of the gums, the frame firmly attaches to the jawbone. Posts are then attached to the frame, protruding through the gums onto which the artificial teeth are mounted. Subperiosteal implants are mostly used for people who have minimal bone height or where the jawbone is not strong enough to support endosteal implants.

  • Zygomatic Implants:

Zygomatic dental implants are long titanium screws that are implanted into the cheekbones instead of the mandible (jawbone ). This type of implant is used for people who have insufficient jawbone tissue to support endosteal or subperiosteal implants. The zygomatic implant directly connects to the zygoma (cheekbone) and provides a secure base to which the artificial teeth can be attached. It also has the advantage of allowing immediate loading, meaning that an artificial tooth can be attached to the implant right away rather than waiting for it to heal first. This type of implant is more intensive and expensive compared to other types of dental implants.

  • Mini Implants:

Mini-implants are narrow titanium screws that are especially useful for holding loose dentures in place. The mini-implant is screwed directly into bone tissue and then connected to the denture, providing a secure connection that holds the dentures in place. Mini-implants are less expensive than traditional implants and require less healing time; however, they will need to be replaced more frequently due to their smaller size.

  • All-on-4 Implants:

All-on-4 implants are a type of dental implant that uses four titanium screws to support an entire arch of teeth. The four implants replace all the missing or damaged teeth in one row and provide secure anchoring for fixed dentures or bridges. All-on-4 implants require less bone tissue than traditional implants, which can be beneficial for people with limited jawbone density. They are also more cost-effective and require less healing time than other implant options. An All-on-4 implant system is a good option for those who need to replace multiple teeth in one arch, providing both stability and support for the dentures or bridges.

Dental Implants vs. Other Tooth Replacement Options

Dental implants surpass other teeth replacement options, such as dental bridges and removable dentures, presenting a myriad of advantages. In contrast to these alternatives, implants offer the following benefits:

1. Preservation of Healthy Teeth: 

Dental bridges require the adjacent teeth to be filed down to support the prosthesis, which can lead to damage over time. Dental implants do not require alterations to the surrounding teeth, thus preserving your natural dental structure.

2. Prevention of Bone Loss:

Over time, the jawbone can experience bone loss when a tooth is missing. Dental implants, unlike dentures or bridges, replicate the structure of a tooth’s root, thereby stimulating the jawbone and preserving its density. This ensures that the natural appearance and functionality of the jaw are maintained.

3. Stability and Comfort: 

Dental implants are anchored securely to your jawbone just like your natural teeth, providing more stability and comfort than removable dentures. There’s no risk of implants slipping or clicking when you talk, eat, or laugh.

4. Durability and Longevity: 

Dental implants are designed to last a lifetime with proper care and regular dental checkups. Bridges and dentures, on the other hand, may need replacement or adjustment every few years.

5. Natural Feel and Function:

Dental implants are designed to mimic natural teeth, providing a seamless experience when eating, speaking, and smiling. You won’t notice any difference or need to concern yourself with artificial teeth – they blend in seamlessly.

6. Better Oral Health: 

Since they don’t require any changes to the surrounding teeth and help maintain bone structure, dental implants can contribute to better long-term oral health.

7. Convenience: 

Dental implants eliminate the inconvenience of removing dentures for cleaning or while sleeping. They are maintained just like natural teeth with regular brushing and flossing.

8. Appearance: 

Dental implants look, feel, and function like natural teeth. They don’t get discoloured or stained like dentures can over time.

9. Improved Taste and Appetite:

 Because a full upper denture covers the palate, it can interfere with the sense of taste. With dental implants replacing dentures, the palate is exposed, improving the ability to taste foods.

Considerations Before Dental Implant Surgery

Before undergoing dental implant surgery, certain factors need to be taken into account:

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1. Bone Density:

Sufficient bone density is critical for the success of the implant. In cases of bone loss, procedures like bone grafting may be required to ensure adequate support for the implant.

2. Sinus Position:

For implants in the upper jaw, the position of the sinus cavities needs to be considered. If they are too close to the jaw, a procedure known as sinus augmentation may be required.

3. Oral Health:

Existing oral health conditions like gum disease need to be managed prior to implant placement.

4. Medical History:

Certain medical conditions and medications can affect the success of dental implants. During your initial consultation, your dentist will carefully assess your medical history, ensuring a comprehensive and thorough review.

Dental Implant Procedure

Implant dentistry is generally a multi-step process involving an initial consultation, the implant placement itself, and follow-up checkups.

  1. Initial Consultation:

During this stage, your dental practitioner will thoroughly evaluate your oral health, assess your medical history, and perform necessary imaging studies to ascertain whether you are a candidate for dental implants.

  1. Implant Placement:

This is a minor surgery performed under local anaesthesia by a dentist It involves the placement of the implant into the jaw bone at the implant site, replacing the missing tooth root.

  1. Healing Period:

Post-implant surgery, the bone around the implant begins to grow and integrate with the implant, a process called osseointegration. This process ensures the implant is securely held in place.

  1. Abutment Placement: 

After the implant has healed and integrated, an abutment is placed on top of the implant. This is a small metal post that functions as an anchor, securely supporting the artificial tooth or crown., enabling it to be securely attached to the implant. The abutment also helps keep healthy gum tissue around the artificial tooth and provides support and stability for chewing.

  1. Final Restoration:

The final step is to place a restoration on top of the abutment, such as an artificial tooth, bridge, or denture. This restoration will be designed to resemble natural teeth and blend in with your smile. The result is a secure, beautiful replacement tooth that looks and feels just like a real one.

Dental Implant Procedure Recovery Period

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After undergoing a dental implant procedure, it’s common to experience some discomfort, including swelling of your gums and face, bruising of your skin and gums, pain at the implant site, and minor bleeding. These symptoms are typically manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers and should subside within a few days. You will likely be prescribed antibiotics and mouth rinse to prevent infection. In the initial days, it is advisable to consume soft foods to prevent exerting excessive pressure on the implanted area. It’s also crucial to maintain good oral hygiene but be gentle around the surgical area to aid healing. Your dentist may schedule follow-up visits to monitor your progress and to ensure the implant is integrating well with your bone. This healing process can take several weeks to a few months. Remember, the overall success of the procedure will also depend on maintaining good oral hygiene practices and regular dental visits.

Dental Implants Cost

The cost of dental implants in Australia can widely differ based on the specifics of the surgical procedure, the expertise of the dentist, and the location of the practice. A single dental implant, inclusive of the surgery and crown, can cost anywhere from AUD $3,000 per tooth. However, costs can be higher if additional procedures are required, such as bone grafts or sinus lifts. It’s important to note that many Australian private health insurance providers categorise dental implants as major dental procedures, and depending on the level of coverage, a portion of the cost may be covered. Always consult with your dental professional and insurance provider to understand the total cost and any possible coverage. It’s also crucial to consider the long-term benefits and durability of dental implants when considering the cost, as they may require fewer replacements or adjustments over time compared to other tooth replacement options.

Tips For Caring For Your Dental Implants

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1. Good Oral Hygiene: 

Just like with natural teeth, dental implants require good oral hygiene. Brush at least twice a day, floss daily, and use an antimicrobial mouthwash.

2. Use the Right Tools: 

Use a toothbrush with soft bristles that can clean hard-to-reach areas. Interdental brushes can also be helpful in cleaning areas around the implants.

3. Quit Smoking: 

Smoking can weaken the bone structure and can contribute to implant failure.

4. Regular Dental Checkups: 

Visit your dentist regularly (usually every six months) for a professional cleaning and to ensure that your dental implant is in good condition.

5. Avoid Hard Foods: 

Hard foods can damage the crown placed on the dental implant. Avoid chewing ice, hard candy, and other similar foods with your implants.

6. Protect Your Teeth: 

If you engage in sports or activities that could result in a blow to the face, use a mouth guard to protect your implants (and your natural teeth).

7. Control Other Health Conditions: 

Health conditions like diabetes can affect your ability to heal, which can complicate the success of the implant. If you have systemic health issues, make sure they are well-managed.

8. Avoid Grinding or Clenching Your Teeth:

 This can put a lot of pressure on the implants and lead to damage. If you experience teeth grinding during sleep, it is worth considering the use of a night guard to help alleviate the issue.

Remember, while dental implants mimic your natural teeth, they do require careful maintenance. Following these tips will not only prolong the life of your implants but also contribute to your overall oral health.

Conclusion

Dental implants have truly transformed the field of dentistry, presenting a robust and dependable solution for replacing missing teeth. Although the procedure may initially appear intimidating, the advantages of opting for dental implants far surpass any temporary discomfort experienced.

If you’re thinking about getting dental implants, reach out to us today to schedule a consultation. Our team of experienced professionals will provide a thorough explanation of the procedure, address any inquiries you may have, and assess your options. Our unwavering commitment lies in providing unparalleled care to our patients, ensuring they experience the joys of a vibrant and thriving smile.

Note: Any surgical or invasive procedure carries risks. Before proceeding, you should seek a second opinion from an appropriately qualified health practitioner.

References 

  1. https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/dental-implant-surgery/about/pac-20384622
  2. https://www.perio.org/for-patients/periodontal-treatments-and-procedures/dental-implant-procedures/