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Cosmetic dental surgery to insert a new tooth into the jaw
A dental implant is an artificial tooth secured directly into the jawbone. Titanium is typically used for the supporting post as it offers minimal risk of rejection by the body’s immune system. A dental implant can be used to support a single tooth, 2 teeth, a denture or a bridge, or even a full jaw reconstruction.
It was in 1952 that titanium was discovered to be biocompatible when surgically placed in bone. By 1965 the first screw shaped implants were being used and in 1985 the procedure became commercially available to the wider public.
Are you a candidate for a dental implant?
Whatever the reason for loosing your teeth you should replace them for practical as well as aesthetic reasons. As long as you have suitable jawbone tissue you should be able to have a dental implant. Possible exceptions are heavy smokers (who have a slower healing process), heavy drinkers (who have poorly healing gums), sufferers of gum disease and people that grind their teeth severely.
“I had an unsightly gap in my teeth“, said one woman, “and I wanted a permanent solution that would be just like my own tooth. A dental implant provided just that, in fact, it was better than the tooth I’d had there originally!”
Even acute dental deterioration can be dramatically improved with dental implants. However, compared to the alternatives, such as a dental bridge or dentures, implants are more invasive as they require a surgical procedure, often carried out under local anaesthetic.
Receiving a dental implant
Prior to any surgery, your dentist will assess your teeth and gums for any signs of gum disease or decay. If any is present, it must be treated before undergoing implant surgery. Several x-rays and a CT scan will be taken to determine the state of the jawbone. Local anaesthesia will be administered and additional sedation may also be used if the dental surgeon considers it necessary.
The surgery begins with a cut to the gum to allow a small hole to be drilled in the jawbone. The titanium implant is then securely fitted into the hole and the gum is stitched back in place. The implant is left to heal and integrate with the jawbone for anything up to 6 months. During this period the bone tissue will grow and anchor the implant in place. You will be given a temporary bridge or dentures to protect the treated area and give you a functional bite while the jawbone is healing.
Once healing is complete, the gum is lifted and a post is attached to the implant with a temporary crown. A further wait of approximately 5 weeks then takes place to allow the surrounding gum tissue to heal. Finally, the permanent false tooth is securely fitted to the implant.
On occasions where there is insufficient jaw bone to insert an implant, a bone graft may be necessary. This involves bone being taken from elsewhere and surgically added to the site of the implant. In these cases, an alternative approach is to use mini implants. Your cosmetic dentist will advise you if this is a possibility.
As one woman commented after her dental implant procedure, “I must admit it was quite uncomfortable and inconvenient for a few weeks – afterall it was a surgical procedure I underwent, not just a filling! Even so, the end result was definitely worth it.”
There is always some degree of risk associated with surgery. In rare case, implants fail to bond with the jawbone. In this case the dentist may try again or suggest an alternative solution such as a bridge. Dental implants can last a lifetime as long as they are properly looked after. Like your natural teeth, implanted teeth can still be damaged and affected by gum disease and poor oral hygiene.
Who should carry out your dental implant?
Dental implant surgery is a highly specialised technique and you should consult a fully-qualified, experienced cosmetic dentist before undergoing the procedure. The price of dental implants varies with the amount of work required (such as bone grafting). The cost of a single tooth implant can be anywhere between £800 and £3,000. If you are considering having a dental implant, you can discuss all of the issues mentioned here in greater depth during a consultation with a dental surgeon.
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