There was a time, not so long ago, when hardly anybody had even heard of dental implants. Now though, it is one of the most popular tooth replacement methods, alongside dentures and bridges. All of these have their pros and cons and we will be discussing these in more detail in a future blog.
In a nutshell though, whilst all of these procedures offer aesthetic benefits, both dentures and bridges can be more inconvenient to look after, and also lack the same degree of strength and stability of implants.
It is this, along with the fact that once the procedure is completed, the implant should last for more than twenty years, that we see an increasing number of people coming to the Sync Dental Centres in Addlestone, seeking to have this treatment, when they have lost a tooth.
Assessing a patient’s suitability
For a successful dental implant procedure to take place, there are certain criteria that must be in place. The key one being that there needs to be sufficient bone into which the implant can be placed.
Whilst we all have a jawbone, these can vary in substance, especially when a tooth has been lost. If you see us soon after the loss of the tooth, it is likely that we will be able to place the implant straight away. If, on the other hand, you have decided to replace a missing tooth some time after the loss, it is quite likely that some bone loss will have occurred. This naturally happens when we lose a tooth as the body then reabsorbs the minerals for other purposes as it no longer has a role to play in that area.
It isn’t just tooth loss though that can cause this. Smoking can have a significant effect, as can the side effects of some medications. Older patients too, may have experienced bone loss over the years. As sufficient bone density is essential for this procedure, we will always check for this before any treatment starts.
Bone loss – diagnosis and solutions
In order to determine the bone density, we will take scans and x-rays to find out whether we can place the implant immediately, or whether other options need to be considered.
If insufficient bone is detected, there are two options that are open to patients. One option would be to turn to either dentures or bridges, but, as we noted earlier, this approach is not without certain drawbacks. There is another option though which allows patients in this situation to go ahead with their implant placement.
To do so, a bone graft will be required. This requires the removal of a small piece of bone from another area of the body, or the use of artificial bone material. This is grafted onto the current bone in the area where the implant is to be placed, and this is then left to bond, over a period of time. This can take a few months, which will delay the actual implant procedure from taking place. Once the bone has ‘healed’ you can finally have your procedure and look forward to many years of service from your new replacement tooth.
Smokers and children
Even where an implant can be physically placed, it does not always mean that it is the best thing to do. Two categories of patients deserve further investigation.
Although very likely to have healthy bone, dental implants can’t be placed into children. This has nothing to do with the procedure itself, but, as children’s faces are still developing and will change shape over time, to place an implant would be highly irresponsible. As the face changes, the implant could become out of position and also affect other teeth. It could even, potentially, cause some discomfort to the patient. Generally speaking, patients under the age of 18 will not be suitable for dental implant placement.
In addition to the initial suitability for implants, we also have to take into consideration their likely aftercare. There are a number of factors which can affect implants, including peri-implantitis and some gum diseases. Whilst this is relatively straightforward to manage, with good oral health care, not everybody may do this.
Two examples of this are some patients with special needs, for whom cleaning may be problematic. Another category are people who regularly smoke.
Smoking is a big problem as far as dental care is concerned. Although this habit can stain teeth, it is not the biggest problem. Smoking is a significant factor in gum disease, and specifically periodontitis and peri-implantitis. When this occurs, the bone in which the implant has been placed can become damaged and compromised. Eventually, the implant may work loose and even fall out.
It is for this reason that we insist that our Addlestone implant patients stop smoking at least for a period of time, both before and after the procedure. Ultimately, if the patient agrees to this, then an implant can be placed and it will then be the patient’s responsibility to maintain this afterwards.
Although this might be a challenge for smokers, it not only allows them to have their new replacement tooth, but can act as an incentive to stop smoking for good. Not only will this help you to retain a healthy dental implant for much longer, but will also significantly reduce the risk of oral cancers as well as improving your overall health.
If you would like to find out if you are suitable to have a tooth implant procedure, an initial consultation at our Addlestone dental practice can be arranged by calling the Sync Dental Centres on 01932 856541.
Dr Werner Krohn – GDC 74868