What is a Dental Implant and How Does it Work?
Missing Teeth

What is a Dental Implant and How Does it Work?

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Dental implants are the closest alternative to natural teeth that a dentist can provide. They are the only teeth replacement solution that replaces the whole tooth including the root.

4 minute read

If you’re looking to replace one or more teeth that are missing or badly decayed, your dentist may discuss dental implants with you. Dental implants are screw-like titanium posts that are surgically placed in the jaw and connect to a prosthetic crown, fixed bridge or removable denture via connecting abutments.

Dental implants can be the best long-term solution for replacing failing teeth and most healthy adults are suitable candidates for dental implants, but they are also a considerable investment that involves ongoing care and maintenance. Your dentist will explain what’s involved in the treatment and what the alternatives are during your consultation.

Want to learn more about dental implants in Victoria Park? Visit our dedicated dental implant clinic, Perth Dental Implant Centre.

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What’s different about dental implants?

A crown, dental bridge or denture are common dental treatment options to replace a damaged or missing tooth. A dental implant is different to these options because it’s the only teeth replacement solution that mimics a tooth’s natural root, helping to preserve the jaw bone. It does this most prominently when chewing food.

Pressure from chewing travels up through tooth roots, stimulating the jaw and regenerating bone tissue cells to keep the jaw bone healthy. When a tooth falls out or gets removed, the jaw bone no longer receives this stimulation and may start to shrink away, causing bone loss.  

Bone loss can be experienced by denture-wearers who commonly adjust dentures over time to accommodate the changes in their jaw structure. If you’ve only recently lost a tooth and are considering a dental implant, your dentist may recommend replacing the tooth sooner rather than later to help preserve the jaw bone.

Types of dental implants

Dentists use different types of dental implant solutions, depending on how many teeth are being replaced, the quality of jawbone to support dental implants and other considerations. The options include:

  • Replacing a single tooth with an implant and crown
  • Replacing several teeth with a bridge on two implants
  • Replacing a full arch of teeth with a bridge on four or more implants (including All-On-4® dental implants)
  • Replacing a full arch of teeth with implant-retained dentures

Your dentist will recommend the best type of implants for your needs and circumstances.

How are dental implants placed?

The dental implant treatment process varies depending on the type of implants, how many are being placed and the teeth you choose. The process can be broken down into three main stages that will involve a series of appointments.

 

Stage 1: Consultation and treatment planning

An implant consultation is your opportunity to learn about what the procedure involves, the commitment required to maintain implants long-term and whether you are a suitable candidate for surgery. Your dentist will check your oral health, medical history and any medical conditions to determine your eligibility. They will also take x-rays, clinical photographs and a 3D bone scan to check the health of your jaw bone and to digitally plan your implant treatment.

During this step you’ll discuss any requests for your new teeth with your dentist, choosing your new tooth or teeth type, their colour and shape.

 

Stage 2: Placing the implant or implants

Dental implants are placed in the jawbone through a minor surgical procedure under anaesthesia. Surgery is performed by a qualified and experienced dentist using either a freehand approach or digitally guided surgery that allows your dentist to place implants precisely. If the implant is at the front of the mouth, it may be covered with a temporary crown or bridge and left to bond naturally with the jaw over three to six months.

 

All-On-4® dental implants

If you are having all teeth replaced using the All-On-4® protocol, your dentist will first remove any remaining teeth and unhealthy bone before placing dental implants and sealing the areas with stiches. Unlike other dental implant procedures, All-On-4® dental implants are placed using an advanced technique that reduces or avoids the need for a bone graft. A fixed bridge can then be attached to dental implants within five days of surgery.

 

Implant-retained dentures

If dental implants are to be supported by a removable denture, you will first wear a full denture for up to six months while your mouth heals from dental implant surgery, then your denture will be remodelled into an implant-retained denture and connected to dental implants via denture abutments.

 

Sedation

Dental sedation is used for a range of dental treatments including dental implant surgery. While most implant surgeries are carried out under local anaesthesia to numb pain, eligible patients with private health insurance and hospital cover may opt for treatment under general anaesthesia in hospital.

 

If you do not have private health insurance and are anxious about treatment, you may choose to sleep through the procedure under intravenous sedation (also known as sleep dentistry) at the clinic. This is administered by a qualified anaesthetist who monitors your vitals throughout and gently wakes you once surgery is completed.

If you choose to remain awake during the procedure, a local anaesthetic accompanied by an oral sedative may help you to remain comfortable and relaxed.

Stage 3: Placing your new tooth or teeth

Once your implants are stable in your jaw, your permanent crown or bridge or removable denture will be fabricated by a skilled dental technician. Your dentist will check that they fit comfortably, check your bite (how your teeth come together) and make any adjustments before connecting them to dental implants.

 

What to expect with dental implants

Once your dental implants are placed, they should look, feel and function just like natural teeth, you should able to enjoy a wider variety of food, including meat that may have otherwise been difficult to chew with missing or damaged teeth.

Good oral hygiene and a healthy diet are now more important than ever to help maintain your gums and dental implants. You will attend a six-monthly check-up and clean and have x-rays taken every 1 to 2 years to check the health of your dental implants and jaw bone. If you smoke, your dentist will recommend you quit, as this increases the risk of implant failure.

The risks of dental implant surgery are minor, but can include infection of the implant site and damage to the surrounding jaw bone or nerves. These risks will be reduced when you choose a qualified and experienced dentist.

Got questions about dental implant treatment? Send an enquiry to the team at Perth Dental Implant Centre today.

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How long do dental implants last?

Dental implants and their connecting abutments are made of high-grade titanium and are designed to last a very long time. Various studies into the success rates of dental implant treatment suggest they last more than 25 years.

The teeth attached to dental implants have various lifespans depending on the tooth materials used, your biting forces and how well the teeth are cared for.

Crowns and small bridges are typically made of zirconia and/or porcelain and may last between 10 to 15 years on average, or longer with proper care.

Full mouth implant bridges placed after All-On-4® surgery may be made of the following options, depending on the dentist you choose and their unique approach:

  • 100% acrylic (need replacing within 3-6 months) 
  • Titanium-reinforced acrylic (may last 2-5 years)

A full mouth implant bridge made of 100% acrylic is sometimes known as a temporary bridge. It is placed within five days of surgery and needs to be replaced once your mouth heals within 3 to 6 months of surgery. Once the mouth heals you would upgrade to a new bridge typically made of zirconia. This is a staged approach to All-On-4® treatment that many dentists use.

The approach used by Perth Dental Implant Centre’s implant dentist, Dr David Norcross involves placing a full mouth implant bridge that is reinforced with a titanium bar hidden inside the bridge. It is sometimes known as an immediate final bridge at some clinics, and offers longevity to a patient's first set of teeth after surgery. A titanium-reinforced acrylic bridge may last between two to five years or more before needing to be replaced.

When choosing All-On-4® teeth, it’s important to choose a dentist with an approach that suits you. It’s good to know what the first set of teeth are made of, because it could mean the difference between paying for a replacement bridge within the first year of surgery, or potentially gaining another four years out of the one you have.

Teeth repairs and replacements

Crowns, bridges and dentures may require repair over time, and will require replacement eventually. This is the case with fixed full mouth implant bridges placed after All-on-4® surgery also.

When the time comes to replace All-On-4® teeth, you may choose another titanium-reinforced acrylic bridge or upgrade to a premium zirconia bridge which lasts longer, is more durable and aesthetic.

When weighing up the cost of dental implant treatment, consider both treatment cost and ongoing maintenance that contribute to overall costs to help you decide what’s best for your needs.

How can I pay for my dental implants?

When you choose dental implants to replace missing or damaged teeth, you also invest in your oral health however, implants can be expensive and not always affordable.

At EVP Dental, we’ve partnered with a number of payment plan providers including Zip, Afterpay and Openpay to help break down the cost of treatment and provide you with dental care when you need it. We’re also a SuperCare provider and can assist you with completing the appropriate forms to apply for early superannuation access to pay for dental implants.

Payment plans

Book a consultation for dental implants in East Victoria Park

If you're considering dental implants in Perth and want to know more, book a consultation at our dedicated dental implant clinic in East Victoria Park, Perth Dental Implant Centre. Call our team today on (08) 9470 3944 or visit the website to schedule your appointment.

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References

  1. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/dental-implant