• Why you might need Dental Implants

    Are you missing teeth? Do you feel self-consious when you smile! Do you struggle to chew, or have full use of your teeth?

    The River Practice experts boast years of experience in helping people regain their smile.

    Offering a long-term solution for people with missing teeth, dental implants are a convenient and effective alternative to dentures.

    Do I need Dental Implants?

    Before you even consider the question, it helps to know what a Dental Implant is. Fundamentally, it is a way of replacing one or more missing teeth. The technology used is an advancement on existing denture technologies, as a patient can have a very specific tooth, or set of teeth, replaced with something that (in many cases) can’t be distinguished from the real thing.

    The key to the success of the technology is the material used – titanium. The medical application was, like Dynamite, Penicillin and Post-It Notes, an accidental discovery, as after a researcher inserted the metal into bone, they found that it couldn’t be removed afterwards because the two materials had fused. Through this breakthrough, it was discovered that the body almost treats titanium as part of itself, which means that there is very little difficulty in inserting titanium into the body, compared to other metals.

    Photo of Dental Implants - Before and AfterAll very interesting, but what does this have to do with teeth? As it turns out, when titanium is put into the jawbone where a tooth is missing, it can be used as an anchor, or fixture, for replacement teeth. The technology itself can simply be divided into two pieces – one or more titanium screws, and a very realistic-looking (and feeling) artificial tooth, known as a ‘Crown’. This holds a number of advantages over the closest alternative, dentures.

    Compared to dentures, a dental implant doesn’t need to be removed each night, doesn’t hold a risk of coming loose inside the mouth, and, perhaps most importantly, doesn’t have the same feelings of a lump of dentistry inside your mouth; dentures can be plastic or metal plates that block off certain parts of the mouth, whereas an implant essentially replicates the tooth that has gone missing, leaving the interior of the mouth in a very similar state to what it was before the tooth or teeth were lost which improves not only the ability to bite and chew, but our patients also tell us that they can taste food properly again. In addition to these advantages, there is also an added benefit in terms of the infection risk – dentures can cover the gums leading to the growth of bacterial and fungal infections, whereas with an implant, there is a massively reduced area of gum coverage, naturally leading to a reduced risk of infection and increased ease of cleaning.

    Above everything else, however, dental implants are often praised for their ability to allow patients to actually smile, without fear of showing any gaps or suffering a mortifying incident due to loose fittings.

    There are a lot of different circumstances which might lead you towards considering dental implants. Most commonly, patients have lost their own teeth through long-term wear and tear.

    However, we often see younger patients as sporting injuries can often result in the loss of teeth, as can poor dental care and traumatic accidents. The good news from this is that dental implants are extremely adaptable and versatile things, capable of replacing single teeth or a whole lower or upper row.

    A further benefit is that due to the artificial nature of the implants, depending on the level of care given to them and when they are put in, they have the potential to last a person’s lifetime. The procedure began in the 1970s, and in a majority of cases, these pioneering implants are still in place.

    The actual timeframe from deciding to get an implant to having it put in can range from six weeks to six months, which is very much dependent on the circumstances of the individual patient. First, a consultation is held to establish if the potential patient is suitable for the treatment.

    Generally, most people are, but there are conditions that affect the teeth and gums that can negatively impact the chances of the procedure being successful. These include poorly controlled diabetes, jawbones subjected to radiation therapy, long-term uncontrolled gum problems, and mouths that have lost teeth over thirty years ago, as the jawbone gets thinner over time after teeth are lost, reducing the available bone to work with. Even in these cases of severe bone loss, procedures are available to restore sufficient support to make implants viable.

    Habits like heavy drinking and smoking also counteract the procedure, although on the flipside, this provides a great incentive to quit smoking, as not only will the patient’s general health improve, but they will also emerge from the dentist’s chair with a beaming smile. For context, in the best case scenarios, the likelihood of a long-term successful implant is in excess of 95%.

    After a patient has been cleared for the procedure, their jawbone is x-rayed (or CT-scanned, in complicated cases), and the precise size and shape of the proposed implants and crowns are worked out by the dentist, working with a skilled technician.

    The colour of the crowns is also chosen; this is matched as closely as possible to the patient’s existing tooth colour to help the crown blend in. The patient should receive a written summary of both the costs and procedures involved in the treatment at this stage. When this has been done, the actual installation itself takes place.

    More good news is that in the vast majority of cases, only a local anaesthetic is applied, and patients report that their experience was similar to, or even easier than having a normal dental filling. Part of this response is due to the fact that the jawbone doesn’t actually contain nerves (only the areas around it do), so at most, a slight bruising is sometimes felt after the anaesthetic wears off.

    In the best cases, a single implant can be put in over the course of a few minutes, which just leaves four to six months for the jaw bone to regrow around the implant to make it stable. In some cases it is even possible to have several implants placed at the same time, then the new teeth placed straight on top, so that the whole procedure from implant placement to new smile is completed in a single day (once it has been carefully planned and the components custom made).

    The success of implants in is very much dependent on the skill of the dentist doing the procedure, and for this reason, it is best to shop around before deciding on the right person. There is currently no legislation to stop any dentist from putting in as many implants as they want, and given that, combined with the typical prices (£2500 for a single fitting, £20-30,000 for a whole set), dental implants are a significant lifetime investment, it is expedient to find the absolute best in terms of skill and experience.

    This can be done by checking the qualifications of staff and the history of a practice they are looking into, as well as checking up with former patients to see what their opinion is of the work that they have had done.

    With all this in mind, you might think that only hubs of dentistry like London would offer such a technically complicated form of treatment. However, there are South West practices such as The River Practice where dentists who have completed a lot of extra training and have a great deal of experience can be accessed.

    To see what this potentially life-changing treatment can do for you, why not contact our team for an informal initial conversation?