- The teeth adjacent to your missing tooth can change position to fill the gap;
- The loss of your missing tooth’s root can cause your jawbone to shrink, making your face appear prematurely older; and,
- A missing tooth in the front of your mouth can affect your smile and your self-confidence.
In many situations, a dental implant is the most pleasingly aesthetic solution for replacing the missing tooth. An all-ceramic dental crown or dental bridge, secured to a dental implant, provides a complete and beautiful solution for improving your smile. A dental implant takes the place of the missing tooth’s root and helps prevent the above consequences.
What are dental implants?
Dental implants are artificial teeth roots that are surgically anchored into the jawbone. Most implants today are endosteal implants— these are surgically implanted directly into the jawbone. Usually made of titanium alloy, they are securely positioned into the jawbone beneath your gums. Once in place, they allow your dental surgeon to mount prosthetic (replacement) teeth (called crowns or dentures) onto them.
Once the surrounding gum tissue has healed, a second surgery is needed to connect a post to the original implant. Finally, an artificial tooth (called crown) is attached to the post individually, or grouped on a denture.
A removable full denture secured by two implant-borne clip-in retainers: even one or two implants dramatically increase the stability. Photo Credit: Straumann
A single replacement tooth called a crown is finally affixed onto an individual dental implant. Sometimes, when many teeth need to be replaced, a group of artificial teeth called dentures are affixed onto two or more dental implants.
How do dental implants work?
Because implants securely fuse to your jawbone (by a biological process medically known as osseointegration), they provide extremely stable support for replacement teeth. Crowns and dentures mounted to implants won't slip or shift in your mouth — an especially important benefit when eating and speaking. This secure fit helps the dentures — as well as individual crowns affixed over implants — feel more natural than bridges or conventional dentures.
For some people, ordinary bridges and dentures are simply not comfortable or even possible due to a number of reasons such as poor ridges, sore spots or gagging. In addition, ordinary bridges must be attached to teeth on either side of the space left by the missing tooth. A distinct advantage of dental implants is that no adjacent teeth need to be prepared or ground down to hold your new replacement tooth/teeth in place.
To receive implants, you need to have healthy gums and adequate bone mass to support the dental implant. You must also commit to keeping these structures healthy. Meticulous oral hygiene and regular dental visits are critical to the long-term success of dental implants. Usually a course of antibiotics is prescribed when an implant is placed to prevent the occurrence of infection. It is important to take and complete this course of antibiotics to avoid complications due to infection.
Dental implants are usually more expensive than other methods of tooth replacement but the many advantages of dental implants far outweigh this added one-time investment in your oral health.
How long do dental implants last?
Dental implants generally last a lifetime ~ certainly between ten to twenty years ~ depending on the location of the implant in the mouth and on patient compliance with oral hygiene and dental visits. Because molars are used for grinding food, they receive more stress than other teeth. Due to this heavy wear and tear, the crowns on these implants typically do not last as long as those located at the front of your mouth.
Are you a good candidate for dental implants?
Patients must undergo a medical evaluation to determine whether the implant placement procedure poses any health risks, and whether any factors exist that may affect the healing capacity of either their bones or their associated soft tissues.
Who can receive dental implants?
Patients who are medically fit to participate in a general oral surgical procedure.
Who should carefully consider dental implants?
Patients who have medical or other conditions that may interfere with the healing process of either their bones or soft tissues (e.g. connective tissue disorders, steroid therapy, bone infections, cigarette smoking) must carefully evaluate, with their dentists, the potential risks and benefits of using dental implants.
Precautions for implant treatment
Dental implants should not be used in patients that have inadequate amounts of bone to permit placement of implants in sufficient size and numbers to support their biomechanical loads. Mechanical failures, including fatigue fracture of implants, prosthetic screws, and/or abutment screws, may occur if dental implants are insufficient in size or number to support their biomechanical loads, or are not properly positioned. To reduce the risk of overload or fatigue failure, dentists must place the implants and design prosthetics to accommodate the physical or medical conditions of their patients, such as bruxism (i.e., grinding or clenching of teeth) or unfavourable jaw relationships.
More information about dental implants may be obtained from the Malaysian Oral Implant Association (MOIA):