People who have missing teeth may benefit from techniques that allow artificial teeth (dental implants) to be secured firmly in the mouth. These techniques may range from replacing one missing tooth to replacing every tooth in the upper and lower jaws.
An implant fixture is inserted into the jaw bone to provide a base for supporting and attaching the prosthesis.
Prosthesis is an artificial tooth, or row of teeth, attached to the implant.
The prosthesis may be:
- a “Crown” to replace one missing tooth
- a “Bridge” to replace several missing teeth
In a jaw with no teeth, the prosthesis covers almost the full dental arch. Some prosthesis are fixed permanently onto the implants with screws or special cements. Other prosthesis that incorporates lip support can clip on and off the implants to facilitate cleaning. These are referred to as ‘Over dentures’.
Implants have become an important part of modern dentistry, and millions of people around the world have had a variety of implants. Implant designs, materials and techniques have improved greatly over the past 15 years and are continuing to improve. Many different types of implants and prostheses are available for people with different needs.
Implants may be made of different materials and may be implanted in different ways. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. We will happily advise you which is the best option for your needs.
Implants are made from titanium which is biocompatible and can bond strongly to the living bone tissue. The bone tissue grows onto the surface of the implant. This is called osseointegration and biointegration. You may hear us use these terms.
When fixed firmly within the jaw bone, the implant will be strong enough to bear the daily forces of chewing and normal function.
If the implant fails to integrate with the jaw bone, the implant will not be strong enough to withstand the forces of chewing and will require removal.
To place an implant we make an incision to open your gums. The implant will be inserted into the jaw bone using special techniques and instruments.
The number of implants inserted will depend on the prosthesis. For example, one implant is used to replace one missing tooth. Or for a complete upper prosthesis having 12 artificial teeth, six implants may be needed.
The incision will be closed either around a ‘healing abutment’ or completely closed with sutures. The bone surrounding the implant will be allowed to heal for up to 6 months.
After healing, an ‘abutment’ will be inserted through the gums and into the implant. This can be done under a local anaesthetic. The abutment is the foundation, support or connector for the prosthesis. The gums around the abutments are allowed to heal for several weeks.
We will then test the implant to see if it has properly integrated with the bone. This is important because the implants must be strong enough to support the prosthesis and withstand the forces of chewing and normal function. If the implants have been successful, we will begin work on the prosthesis. The prosthesis may be fixed to the implant with cement or screws so that it is not removable. Or it may be attached in a way that allows it to be removed for cleaning. These are called ‘over dentures’.
When the impressions of your mouth are made and before the prosthesis is finished, we will discuss the appearance of the prostheses with you. If you have ideas or concerns about the appearance of the prosthesis make sure you discuss them with us. Cleanliness is crucial. Implants, prostheses, gums and remaining teeth must be thoroughly cleaned every day so they stay free of dental plaque. Constant attention to cleanliness will improve the chances of the implants being successful. Implant hygiene is a life – time commitment for you as the patient and us as your dental team.
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