Although it is tempting to focus on the more glamorous benefits of teeth supported by dental implants, basic dental health, which includes the treatment of gum disease, repair of decay and the elimination of abscesses, are just as important for the long-term success of your treatment.
If you are aware of bad breath, loose teeth or have noticed excessive bleeding, particularly when your teeth are cleaned professionally, you may have gum problems. Periodontal (gum) disease is a major cause of bone loss and reduced bone will mean dental implant treatment can be more complicated.
All the common forms of tooth replacement, such as bridges or dentures can be replaced by dental implants.
If you are missing just one natural tooth, then one implant is normally all that will be needed to provide a replacement. Larger spaces created by two, three or more missing teeth do not necessarily need one implant per tooth; however, the exact number of implants will depend upon the quality and volume of bone at each potential implant site.
Occasionally, it is even possible to join natural teeth to implants with a conventional bridge.
In the upper jaw, bone density is generally poorer than in the lower and if you have no teeth at all, most treatment providers will want to place a minimum of 6 implants to support a complete arch of 10 or more replacement teeth.
In the lower jaw, the bone towards the front of the mouth is often very strong and as a direct result, fewer implants may be needed than are required to treat a whole upper jaw. A simple treatment plan to provide 10 or more teeth in the lower jaw might be possible with as few as 4 implants, although it is still more common to use 5 or 6.
If you have good general health then dental implants will almost certainly work for you. However, habits such as heavy drinking or smoking can increase the number of problems associated with initial healing and thereafter may negatively influence the long-term health of gum and bone surrounding each implant. Remaining teeth might also be compromised making treatment planning less certain.
Some dentists will decline to place implants if smoking cannot be reduced or given up altogether.
If you have any other complicated medical problems then speak to someone with relevant experience – it is rare to have health problems that prevent the use of dental implants.
For routine cases, from the time of implant placement to the time of placing the first teeth, treatment times can vary between 6 weeks and 6 months. The availability of better bone can be used to decrease treatment time, whilst more time and care must be taken with poorer bone, which can therefore extend treatment times beyond six months.
If there is no reason to shorten the duration of your treatment then be prepared to wait – nobody loses an implant from being patient and allowing.
For most implant-supported teeth you will be able to clean around each supporting implant by brushing and flossing in just the same way that you would around natural teeth and tooth-supported bridges. In some areas special floss, interdental toothbrushes and other cleaning aids may be needed to maintain good oral hygiene. Cleaning is not at all difficult, provided that you do not have impaired use of your hands.
It is reasonable to expect some of the daily hygiene procedures to be a little more complex than around your original teeth – equally expect to spend more time than you may have done in the past if you wish to maintain optimum implant health.
For the first few months the implants are in function your dentist may ask that you are seen more frequently, however once they are satisfied your treatment is performing as planned, ongoing care will be similar to any patient with natural teeth.
Well maintained implants placed into adequate bone can be expected to last for many years and probably for your lifetime. However, just as you would expect conventional crowns, bridges and fillings to need occasional repairs or replacements during their lifetime, your implant-supported teeth may also have similar maintenance requirements over theirs.
Routine dental x-rays show large amounts of detail, but in only two dimensions. From these views it is generally possible to judge the height of bone available for implant placement, however, more advanced imaging techniques are sometimes needed to determine the equally important bone width, which can otherwise only be estimated from clinical examination.
Dental CT scans – There are now a number of advanced x-ray techniques which allow your jaw bone to be looked at in all three-dimensions. The most accurate and widely available is known as the CT (computed tomography) scans. Images obtained by CT scanning will normally be able to show all of the information required about your bone, including quantity and quality, but most importantly the presence of anatomical structures that must be avoided.
Dental implants are routinely placed beside natural teeth and this is generally very safe to do. The only exception to this would be if the natural root was very curved or tilted unfavorably in the proposed path of the implant. This could cause the root to be damaged by the implant; however, this can usually be avoided by careful pre-operative planning.
If a tooth is inadvertently damaged by the placement of a nearby implant, any resulting problems can generally be resolved by root canal treatment in which the nerve of the natural tooth is removed.
For further information on dental implants or to book an appointment, call us on 020 8500 3339.