A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement designed to look and function like a natural tooth. It can be a convenient, long term and discreet way to replace any tooth loss or gaps in the dentition. In addition, implants are an excellent low-key option to help build confidence, with the knowledge that your smile looks great.
The implant is generally a screw inserted into the jaw bone to act as a root and fuse to the bone. A porcelain crown is then screwed on top. The crown is matched to the shape, size and colour of the tooth it is replacing, blending seamlessly into your natural dentition and smile.
Why Do People Need Dental Implants?
Dental implants are best suited for those looking for a natural-looking tooth replacement. In addition, dental implants are suitable for people that need an implant that fills a gap or multiple gaps in their teeth to gain a perfect smile and healthy set of teeth.
There is also the option of fixed dentures. This is often ideal when there is a larger loss of dentition and where you would typically wear a denture, but the repeated removal and application of denture glue is too much. Implanted dentures can be a permanent, cost-effective way to restore confidence and function to your mouth.
What Are The Benefits of Dental Implants?
There are many reasons why people receive dental implants in the UK and worldwide. Some people get implants for their teeth for cosmetic reasons, but a loss of teeth and dentition is a factor in many cases. However, whatever the reason for receiving dental implants, there are various benefits that patients cite, having received dental implants:
- Natural-looking and discreet
- Functional teeth
- Long-lasting and fixed
- If cared for properly, it can last as long as natural teeth
- No need for removal, unlike dentures and bridges
- Matched to size, shape and colour of existing teeth
- Prevent bone loss
- Risks of Implants
Implants are generally very safe and do not present with major complications. However, they can carry a few risks to be considered prior to undergoing any treatment:
- Failure to integrate and form a strong bond between screw and bone
- Excessive bone loss
- Implant breakage or fracture of implant or bone
- Nerve injury leading to pain
- Change or loss of sensation of teeth, gums, lips or chin
- Gingival hypoplasia and recession
- The wound failing to heal
What To Expect From The Dental Implant Procedure
The precise nature of the dental implant procedure and what patients can expect will vary from clinic to clinic and from dentist to dentist. However, there are some common steps to the procedure to expect.
The process starts with an initial consultation to assess which tooth or teeth you have concerns about or gaps in between. You and your dentist will then discuss your options in-depth and generate a treatment plan. Each person’s treatment plan will be unique, but in general, the following generic steps might apply:
- Some people have a loss of bone in their jaw and thus require bone grafting (you may need X-rays or CBCT scans)
- The procedure is usually performed under local anaesthetic and some sedation depending on individual circumstances
- A small incision is made into the gum and the mandible (jaw bone) is exposed using a drill
- In this hole, a screw is placed, which will eventually bind to the natural bone giving strong support and acting as the ‘root’
- Some people need time for everything to settle and heal (this is usually 6 months before a bond is formed between screw and bone), and some can have the ‘crown’ placed on top immediately
With regards to implant dentures, a similar process to the above is used with 3-4 screws placed around the mouth at intervals with a larger denture implant then attached for a permanent natural look and excellent function.
It is important to follow aftercare instructions and care for the new implant or implants as you would your natural teeth, maintaining good oral hygiene.
Supplementary Treatments to Dental Implants
Sometimes additional procedures can be used to maximise the efficacy of the implant:
A Bone graft is sometimes necessary before an implant is placed. The implantation process requires a screw in the mandible or maxilla (lower and upper jaw) and this then acts as a natural root forming a strong bond with the bone. If there is inadequate bone, surgical techniques using local bone or bone from the patient’s hip can be performed to ensure there is sufficient and optimal bone for a strong, solid bond giving your implant the best possible chances of long-lasting results.
A sinus lift is a surgical procedure that some people need when they get implants in their upper jaw. The maxillary sinus lies above your cheekbone. The implant screw needs a good amount of bone to fuse to. If the bone between the maxilla and sinus is too thin, it could compromise the fixation of the screw, which would lead to instability, weakness or a poor bond. Your dentist will be able to tell you if you will benefit from a sinus lift and may recommend further imaging (X-rays or CBCT).
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
Privately in the UK, the average cost of an implant is £2000-£2500 per tooth. Dental implants can cost £3,000 – £3,500 per tooth.
The NHS does not generally cover the cost of implants or denture implants. Most people will not be eligible for implants on the NHS, as there is only a handful of qualifying reasons for which the NHS would cover the cost of a dental implant. Even in cases where a patient does qualify for NHS coverage, it is usually subsidised and not entirely free.