What are dental implants?
Dental implants are one of the most popular and effective options for replacing missing teeth. They are a permanent solution that looks, feels, and functions almost like natural teeth. Dental implant restorations have been in use for over 90 years, and thanks to new materials and scientific advances the success rate has increased to over 90% at 10 years. In this article, we will explore the science behind dental implants and how they work.
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots made of titanium that are inserted into the jawbone. The implant fuses with the bone in a process called osseointegration, which takes 1-6 months, depending on the initial situation. Once the implant has fused with the bone, a dental crown, bridge, or denture can be attached to the implant to replace the missing tooth or teeth.
The process of getting a dental implant starts with a consultation with a dentist or oral surgeon. The dentist will assess the patient’s oral health and determine if they are a good candidate for dental implants. Factors that can affect the success of dental implants include the patient’s overall health, especially diabetes, and smoking, the quality and quantity of their jawbone, and their oral hygiene habits.
Different varieties of dental implants
There are several different types of dental implants available, and the type of implant used will depend on the patient’s specific needs and the location of the missing tooth or teeth. Here are some of the most common types of dental implants:
These are the most common type of dental implant and are typically used for patients with healthy jawbones. Endosteal implants are inserted into the jawbone and are made of titanium. They can support a single tooth or a bridge of several teeth.
These are used for patients who have severely insufficient jawbone to support an endosteal implant. Subperiosteal implants are inserted beneath the gum tissue but above the jawbone. They are typically used to support dentures or bridges. They are rarely used nowadays.
These are used for patients who have severe bone loss in the upper jaw. Zygomatic implants are anchored to the zygomatic bone (cheekbone), which provides additional support for the implant.
These are a type of implant-supported denture that uses four dental implants to support a full arch of replacement teeth. All-on-4 implants are a popular option for patients who have lost most or all of their teeth.
These are smaller than traditional implants and are used for patients who do not have enough bone to support larger implants. Mini implants can be used to support a single tooth or a bridge of several teeth. Customarily, they are used as a cheap option to support removable dentures.
It is important to note that not all patients are good candidates for all types of dental implants. The type of implant used will depend on the patient’s individual needs, oral health, and the location of the missing tooth or teeth. A consultation with a dentist or oral surgeon can help determine which type of dental implant is right for each patient.
The dental implant procedure
The dental implant procedure typically involves the following steps:
- Placement of the implant: The dentist or oral surgeon will make a small incision in the gum tissue and insert the implant into the jawbone.
- Osseointegration: The implant will fuse with the jawbone in a process called osseointegration, which can take 1-6 months.
- Placement of the abutment: Once the implant has fused with the bone, a small connector called an abutment is attached to the implant. The abutment will hold the dental crown, bridge, or denture in place.
- Placement of the dental restoration: The final step is to attach the dental crown, bridge, or denture to the abutment.
The science behind dental implants
The success of dental implants is due to a process called osseointegration. When a dental implant is placed in the jawbone, the bone cells will grow and attach to the implant’s surface. This process creates a strong and stable bond between the implant and the jawbone.
Titanium is the material of choice for dental implants because it is biocompatible, meaning it is not rejected by the body’s immune system. Titanium is also strong and durable, which makes it an ideal material for dental implants.
The success of dental implants also depends on the quality and quantity of the patient’s jawbone. If the jawbone is not strong enough to support the implant, a bone graft may be required simultaneously with the implant placement or before the implant can be placed.
The role of oral hygiene in dental implant success
Oral hygiene is crucial for the success of dental implants. Patients with dental implants must maintain good oral hygiene habits, including brushing and flossing regularly and visiting the dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings.
Poor oral hygiene can lead to a condition called peri-implantitis, which is similar to gum disease but affects the tissues surrounding the dental implant. Peri-implantitis can cause the implant to fail, which can lead to infection and other complications.
Statistics about dental implants
There are several statistics related to dental implants in the UK that are worth noting. Here are a few:
- According to the British Dental Association (BDA), dental implants have a success rate of over 95% at 5 years and 90% at 10 years.
- The BDA estimates that approximately one million dental implants are placed in the UK each year.
- The number of dental implant placements in the UK has been steadily increasing over the past decade. In 2019, there were 280,000 dental implant placements, up from 216,000 in 2010.
- The average cost of a dental implant fixture in the UK ranges from £1,000 to £4,000 per tooth, depending on the complexity of the case and the location of the missing tooth.
- According to a survey conducted by the Oral Health Foundation in 2019, over half of UK adults (53%) are unhappy with their smile, with missing teeth being one of the most common reasons cited.
- The same survey found that 34% of UK adults have had at least one tooth removed due to decay, trauma, or other reasons.
- The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends dental implants as a cost-effective option for replacing missing teeth, particularly for patients with multiple missing teeth or for those who are not suitable candidates for dentures.
Dental implants are a safe and effective solution for replacing missing teeth. The science behind dental implants is based on the process of osseointegration, which creates a strong and stable bond between the implant and the jawbone. The success of dental implants also depends on the patient’s oral hygiene habits and the quality and quantity of their jawbone. With proper care and maintenance, dental implants can last a lifetime, providing patients with a functional and natural-looking smile.
ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Clinically reviewed by: Prof Dr Christian Mehl
Written by: Dr Raul Costa
About the author:
Dr Raul Costa is a restorative dentist with a unique set of skills for dental aesthetics and a drive for ultra-conservative techniques. He qualified from the Lisbon Dental School in 2005 and has been practicing in London since 2008. He works with world-renowned ceramists in order to deliver natural-looking, life-like, crowns and veneers. He is also particularly talented and experienced with composite bondings and implant-supported restorations.