DENTAL IMPLANTS: YOUR COMPLETE GUIDE
Dental implants are basically components of surgery that collaborates with the bone of the jaw or skull to support missing parts of the teeth, missing, soft or hard structures of the jaw and palate. The aim of using dental implants is to rehabilitate mastication, aid speech and improve the aesthetic condition.
In recent times, dental implants are fast becoming a generally accepted way of replacing missing teeth. In simpler terms, dental implants act as a substitute for the natural root in the mouth –once it’s put in place by the dentist; it aids in mounting replacement teeth.
ABOUT DENTAL IMPLANTS
Dental implants consist of three parts; the base, connector, and crown
- The base is made of titanium. The titanium screw fuses with a natural bone to provide safe and stable support.
- The connector also called abutment. The shape is often hexagonal or octagonal, and it serves to hold down the crown (tooth) to the base.
- Crown – it is the part of the implant that resembles a natural tooth, and it is made of ceramic material.
A dental implant can support more than one tooth. You do not need to worry about getting new implants for every missing tooth. Dental implants can effectively be used for the replacement of a full or partial set of dentures. Dental implants come in slightly different forms; your dentist would choose the type best for you, depending on your circumstance. If properly fixed, there is no visible difference between an implant and a natural tooth.
THE PROCESS OF DENTAL IMPLANTS
To get implants, you will need to have healthy gums and adequate bone to support the implants. Maintaining good oral hygiene is very important, along with frequent visits to the dentist. All of these contributes to the success of getting a good implant.
The first thing to be done if you want to get a dental implant is the development of an individualised treatment plan for you by your dentist. This plan helps address your specific need throughout the process of getting the implant. A dental implant process can take up to nine months to complete. In some cases, it takes more than that.
The next step is the placement of the root implant into the bone socket of the missing tooth. The jawbone is allowed to heal and grow firmly around the implant. This healing process can take between 6-12 weeks before the connector (abutment) is attached to the post to hold the new teeth or tooth. During your healing period, you may be asked to wear temporary artificial teeth.
The last step is the fitting of the crown (artificial teeth or tooth). The dentist may match the colour of the new teeth to their natural counterparts.
In a few cases, additional steps may be added.
- Tooth extraction: for persons having problems with their teeth, the dentist may have to remove the old teeth before replacing them with implants.
- Bone grafting: persons with a small amount of bone in the jaw to support the dental implant would have to get a bone grafting first.
WHO CAN HAVE A DENTAL IMPLANT?
Children and young people below 18 are not suitable to get implants. Persons below 18 still have underlying bones that are still growing. Any adult with generally good health and healthy gum can get an implant. Dentists strongly advise against getting implants for the following people
- People who have diabetes
- People who have gum diseases
- People who have had radiotherapy to their gum areas.
For anyone who intends to get a dental implant, you should let your dentist know about any medical problem you have had or currently have.
ALTERNATIVES TO DENTAL IMPLANTS
For most persons, dental implants remain the best option to replace missing teeth. Few people go for their alternatives. The alternatives to dental implants are:
- Full mouth dentures
- Partial dentures
- Fixed bridges
DECIDING ON DENTAL IMPLANTS
One of the vital steps to carry out before getting a dental implant is visiting your dentist. It is necessary to get information on all that concerns dental implant and the possible effects a dental implant can have on you.
You should also discuss all other available options and any previous medical issue with your dentist. Make sure you choose an experienced and qualified dentist that has been trained for carrying out the procedure of giving an implant. You should also ask for the total cost of getting an implant, preferably a written estimate of the cost.
PREPARING FOR DENTAL SURGERY IMPLANTS
If you have gone through all it takes to get a dental implant, and you feel comfortable to go on with the procedure, the first thing you’ll have to do is to get some X-rays done. X-rays are carried out to check the health of your gum and the amount of bone in your jaw. CT scans may be done in addition to the X-rays to get a clear picture of the jaw and get information not provided by X-ray.
The result of the X-ray and CT scan will be used by your dentist to decide the best place to fix the implant. If you smoke, your dentist will strongly advise against smoking permanently. Smoking increases the chances of dental implants failure.
Your dentist will have to discuss all you have to expect before, during and after the surgery. Your dentist should also discuss the risks and benefits of getting a dental implant. All these will help you prepare ahead for the surgical procedure. Dental implants procedures involve more than a surgical procedure; you’ll have to check with your dentist if you’ll need assistance getting home afterwards.
You could even write down all the questions you would want to ask, so you don’t forget them. Lastly, you will be expected to sign a consent form.
WHAT HAPPENS DURING DENTAL IMPLANT SURGERY
- Fitting the implant to the abutment
Most times, dental implants are fitted in a dentist’s surgery. The dentist administers local anaesthesia to the patient. The patient is completely awake during this process, but the anaesthesia completely numbs the pain. Sometimes, a sedative is administered alongside the anaesthetics to help the patient relax.In rare/complicated cases where general anaesthesia is used, the implants will be fitted in a hospital.Before the fitting, your dentist tells you how long the procedure would take. Under normal circumstances, it would take 30 minutes for a single implant. If you are getting multiple implants fitted, it could take several hours.
The dentist drills a small hole into your jaw as soon as the effect of the anaesthetic sets in. The implant will be fitted into the drilled hole. The next step is the fitting of the abutment. This can be done in any of the following ways.
- A one-stage treatment; the root and abutment are fitted at the same time
- A two-stage treatment; the root is first buried into your gum and the bones allowed to heal. A few months later, you’ll have another surgery to get the abutment attached.
- Attaching replacement teeth (tooth) to the implant
A dental technician will construct the crown (artificial teeth or tooth). The crown will be attached to your implant when the implant has settled and healed properly on a later date. Sometimes, the crown is fitted immediately after the implant is fitted. You may discuss the crown fitting options with your dentist. If you go with the option of fitting the crown at a later date, your dentist may provide you with a temporary bridge or denture.
Finally, the crown will be either fixed permanently or in a way you can remove it to have it cleaned. Your dentist will match the artificial teeth (tooth) with the natural ones.
WHAT TO EXPECT AFTERWARDS
After getting dental implants, you will need to rest until the effect of the anaesthetic wears off. Once you feel well enough, you are free to go home.
If your dentist used a local anaesthetic, it might take a few hours before you can feel anything in your mouth. You have to be careful with any hot food or drink, so you don’t burn your mouth without realising. It is best to wait for the anaesthetic to wear off before eating anything.
If you had a general anaesthetic, it is best to stay in the hospital for at least 24 hours. Within this period, the effect of the anaesthetic would wear off. You may feel very uncomfortable and uncoordinated; all these signs are normal. Ensure that you have someone to stay with you in the hospital until you are ready to go home. Staying away from alcohol, driving, machine operation, and rigorous activities are advised until you attain full recovery from the effect of the anaesthetic.
You can take some over-the-counter pain relief medicine for the discomfort or pain you may feel.
RECOVERING FROM DENTAL IMPLANT SURGERY
After fitting your implants, your dentist will give you instructions on how to care for your teeth during the first week of your recovery. You should only take soft foods for the first week after getting your implants. Any over the counter medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen can relieve your pain. You need to read the patient’s information leaflet for information on how to take medicine, or you can ask your pharmacist or dentist for a prescription.
Make sure you see your dentist regularly during your recovery period. Your dentist will be able to access your healing process at every appointment. Recovery periods vary depending on the treatment plan used by the dentist. Strict adherence to the dentist’s instructions given to ensure your full recovery within a short time is important.
You may be asked to take antibiotics a few hours before or after the surgery to reduce the chances of your implants getting infected, or your dentist may prescribe an antiseptic mouth wash to be used during your recovery period.
Implants and artificial teeth should work as the natural ones once you have made a full recovery. You should be able to eat and drink whatever you wish to.
Once you get dental implants, extra care should be given to your teeth. More time should be given to brushing and flossing to keep your teeth healthy. Your dentist can show you how to clean them properly.
If you get the implant or any of the teeth damaged, your dentist can remove it and put a replacement. Implants rarely get damaged, but if this happens, your dentist will need to remove the damaged implant before fitting a new one.
SIDE-EFFECTS OF DENTAL IMPLANT SURGERY
You may experience temporary side-effects after getting dental implants. Swelling and discomfort around the implant area are not uncommon; an over-the-counter pain relief medicine like paracetamol or ibuprofen can take care of this. If the pain gets very severe or increases after a few days, contact your dentist.
COMPLICATIONS OF DENTAL IMPLANTS
Complications may arise after getting a dental implant as a result of one of the following
- Unexpected reaction to the anaesthetic
- Bacterial infection or
- Excessive bleeding.
The complications that can happen include
- Nerve damage: if the nerves which come from your lower jaw, lower teeth and gum gets damaged, you will feel a tingling or numbness that may be painful. This may either be permanent or temporal. The CT scan and X-ray carried out while preparing for the surgery helps the dentist see the positions of these nerves so they can avoid them.
- Loose implants; your implants may be loose and unable to support the artificial teeth. If this happens, your dentist will have to get another implant fitted. The loose implant may be as a result of the inability of the implant to fuse into the jaw. You will have regular dentist’s appointments to check if the implants are still secured in the right place.
Make sure you ask your dentist about possible complications and how to manage them.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Will having dental implants hurt?
Having a dental implant shouldn’t hurt. A general anaesthetic is rarely used in dental implant surgery. Your dentist will use a local anaesthetic for the procedure. You will be awake but won’t feel any pain. You are given the same injection as someone having their teeth filled. If you still feel any pain, let your dentist know, your dentist will know what to do.
For persons who feel anxious when having a dental procedure, let your dentist know before the procedure so that sedatives can be given to help lessen your anxiety and help you relax. The sedative can be administered by
- Inhalation of gas or air (it is a combination of nitrous oxide and oxygen) through a nose mask.
- Injection into a vein on the back if your hand or in your arm.
- Swallowing a liquid or tablet medicine before the procedure starts.
It is important to discuss with your dentist which type of sedative will be best for you.
You might experience a little discomfort in your mouth after your dental implant surgery. Ask your pharmacist or dentist what to take for this, or you can take any over-the-counter medicine. Paracetamol or ibuprofen would be sufficient to stop the discomfort.
How do I care for my dental implants?
To ensure your dental implants last as long as possible, you need to maintain good oral hygiene. It is important to floss and clean your teeth and gum every day. Ask your dentist for advice on the best way to care for your implants. Your dentist may give you a special floss or interdental toothbrushes.
Brushing your implants may take longer time than brushing your natural teeth. Putting more time to clean your dental implants can make it last longer, probably a lifetime. Implants may develop plaques and calculus if they are not properly taken care of. Calculus and plaques can lead to severe gum infection, sore or bleeding. A regular visit to your dentist and dental hygienist is required, especially in the first few months of dental implant surgery to check if there is any problem.
How long will dental implant treatment take?
The time required to get a dental implant depends on the treatment plan recommended by the dentist. It takes several months to complement an implant treatment. You’ll be asked to wait for three to eight months after fitting the implants before attaching the artificial teeth. During this time, the implant fuses into the bone in your jaw. A temporary denture will be given to wear while you wait for the implants to heal. Your dentist will let you know which other option is available if you decide not to use dentures
In some cases, your dentist may fit the implants and attach the artificial teeth on the same day. This method is not suitable for everyone. Your dentist will advise you on which method is best for you.
Make sure you ask your dentist how long your dental implant treatment will take so that you can prepare for it. If it will take longer than you expected, try to be patient. Your dentist will try to ensure that your implant lasts as long as possible.
Can I get a dental implant if I grind my teeth at night?
Grinding of teeth is a common habit, and it is also known as bruxism. If you think you grind your teeth when you sleep or wake, you should tell your dentist. Your dentist will plan your treatment based on the conditions you discuss with them.
Grinding your teeth puts extra pressure on the implant. You will have to get an additional implant and artificial teeth made of a stronger material to help reduce the pressure. You can also wear a mouth guard at night to protect your teeth.
What is bone grafting, and how is done?
For dental implants surgery to be successful, there must be sufficient bone in the jaw to hold and support the implant. Shortage of bone in the jaw may be as a result of gum disease and wearing dentures.
If you have insufficient jaw bone, bone grafting is done to increase the amount of bone in the jaw to have a successful surgery. Bone grafting involves getting bone from another part of your body (mostly hip or shin) or another area of your jaw and adding it to the place the implant will be fitted. The procedure could be done under local anaesthesia depending on where the bone is gotten from. If the bone is gotten from the hip, a general anaesthetic will be used, and the procedure will be done in a hospital.
Your dentist may suggest the use of bones or materials made from bones of animals. Using your bone is the best option. You can ask your dentist questions about the different graft materials.
Your treatment may take longer if you have to have a bone grafting done. Most times you may be advised to wait for a year and three months after the grafting before getting the implant fitted. For some person,s the grafting will be done at the same time with the implant fitting.
Ask your dentist questions about what to expect during the bone grafting and how long it will take.