Woking dentist, Dr Andrew Gough, explains more about this excellent tooth replacement option
Nobody wants to lose a tooth, but for many of us, this will eventually happen. It is not always through neglecting our teeth either. Even the healthiest and strongest of teeth can be lost during an accident such as a fall or a collison, perhaps when taking part in a sporting event.
However a tooth is lost though, our first consideration will be whether to replace it or not. Few people will chose not to replace a missing front tooth, but may consider leaving a gap where the tooth is not visible. To do so is a mistake as if you don’t replace a missing tooth, a number of things can happen. Firstly, as there is now a vacant space in between your teeth, the adjacent teeth are likely to move towards this. This in turn creates spaces of its own, for yet more teeth to start to move. Over time, this can result in your teeth becoming crooked and uneven.
The other thing to consider is that, as the tooth is a hidden one, it is likely to be a tooth that is heavily used for chewing food. When the tooth is no longer there, you will almost certainly compensate for this by using a different tooth. This additional strain, especially if it is not a tooth designed for that role, could lead to premature wear or breakage.
Replacing your missing tooth
When you decide to replace the missing tooth, you are left with a choice of methods that we are pleased to offer at the AJ Dental Group in Woking. The most commonly used method is dentures. Modern dentures do provide an acceptable aesthetic solution, but, as some wearers will attest, may sometimes move around in the mouth and can present challenges when eating certain foods. Although they are the cheapest option, their disadvantages mean that many will seek other options.
The next option you might consider is a bridge. This is where an artificial tooth is held in position, often by attaching crowns to the teeth on either side of the gap. This is a stronger and more stable solution than dentures, but is not without its own issues. Cleaning can be quite tricky, especially beneath the bridge. The biggest issue though is that, in order to attach the crowns, the teeth have to be prepared. Understandably, many patients are very reluctant to have this done to healthy teeth.
The third option, and one that is growing rapidly in popularity, are dental implants.
What are dental implants?
When patients refer to dental implants, they usually mean the whole replacement tooth. Strictly speaking though, the dental implant is a screw like object, usually made from titanium, which is placed into the jawbone. Titanium is widely used as it ‘osseointegrates’, or bonds, well with the bone; a process which usually takes approximately three – six months. Once this process is complete, the implant is held extremely securely by the bone, in effect, replacing the natural root of a tooth. To complete the process, an abutment and a dental crown are used to provide a fully functional and natural looking replacement tooth. This process can also be used to support a fixed bridge where a number of teeth are missing.
Does having a dental implant hurt?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, this is one of the most common questions that we are asked about this procedure. It is, of course, an invasive procedure, but, thanks to the use of powerful local anaesthetics, and the skills and experience of our dental implant team, any discomfort felt should be kept to a minimum.
We do understand that having a metal rod placed into the jawbone can sound quite scary to patients and we are more than happy to discuss any aspect of this procedure with you during your initial consultation at our Woking dental practice.
What are the main benefits?
There are so many benefits to having dental implants that it is not surprising that they are often referred to as the ‘gold standard’ for tooth replacement. Although the treatment may take longer to complete than either dentures or a bridge, the benefits are well worth it.
Strength and security – Once in place and you have got used to them (usually a very short period of time), there will be no food that your dental implant can’t handle. There is no need to worry about the tooth working loose as it is firmly held in place by the new artificial tooth root.
Longevity – Providing that you look after your dental implants well, you should expect twenty years or so of life from them. In fact, some patients still have healthy dental implants thirty years later.
Ease of care – Dentures and bridges can be problematic to clean. Dental implants, on the other hand, can more or less be treated as you would a natural tooth. Brushing, flossing and cleaning by the hygienist (to help prevent gum disease and peri-implantitis, something we will discuss in the future), along with your usual checkups, should be all that is needed.
Natural look and feel – Almost everybody who has dental implants remarks on how natural they both look and feel, once they have become used to them. We will take care to use a dental crown that matches in both shape and shade, to ensure that they blend in naturally with your other teeth.
Is everybody suitable for implants?
Anyone over the age of 18 should be a suitable candidate for dental implants. However, patients under 18 should not have them as they faces have not yet fully developed and it could cause problems if they were placed. We will of course assess this during your examination.
The main reason for someone not being able to have implants placed immediately, is where bone loss has occurred where a tooth has been lost. This is a natural occurrence as the body reabsorbs the bone for use elsewhere. All is not lost though, and most patients in this situation can usually still have implants placed following a bone graft or sinus lift to provide the necessary bone into which the implant can be placed.
If you have a tooth, or a number of teeth missing, and would like to find out more about dental implants, why not arrange to have an initial consultation at either our Parkside practice (call 01483 766355) or our Waterside practice (call 01923 352333). We look forward to seeing you!