Q What are dental implants?
A A dental implant is a titanium metal
rod which is placed into the jawbone. It is
used to support one or more false teeth. In
practice, both the false teeth and their supporting
rod are known as 'implants'.
Q Are implants safe? How
long will they last?
A Implants are a well-established, tried-and-tested
treatment. 90 per cent of modern implants last
for at least 15 years.
Q I have some of my own
teeth. Can I still have implants?
A Yes. You can have any number of teeth
replaced with implants - from one single tooth
to a complete set.
Q Can implants always be
used to replace missing teeth?
A It depends on the state of the bone
in your jaw. Your dentist will arrange for a
number of special tests to assess the amount
of bone still there. If there is not enough,
or if it isn't healthy enough, it may not be
possible to place implants without grafting
bone into the area first.
Q Do implants hurt?
A Placing the implants requires a small
operation. This can be carried out under local
anaesthetic with sedation or with a general
anaesthetic. You will not feel any pain at the
time, but you may feel some discomfort during
the week following the surgery. This is usually
due to having stitches in place, and the normal
Q Can I have the new teeth
A No. The implants need to bond (integrate)
with the bone after they have been placed. This
takes at least 3 months in the lower jaw and
6 months in the upper jaw. If you are having
one, two or three teeth replaced, you will have
a temporary restoration in the meantime. If
you have complete dentures, then you can wear
them throughout the healing period once they
have been adjusted after the surgery.
Q How long does treatment
A It takes about 12 months from the initial
assessment to the time when the artificial teeth
or dentures are finally attached to the implants.
However, if only the lower jaw is involved then
it may only take around 5 months.
A lot depends on how complicated your treatment
is. Your dentist will be able to give you a
timetable once the surgery has been done.
Q Are the teeth difficult
A Cleaning around the teeth attached
to the implants is no more difficult than cleaning
natural teeth. However, there may be areas that
give you problems and you'll be shown methods
Q If I had gum disease
when I had my own teeth, will I get it with
the teeth attached to the implants?
A Yes, if you don't care for them well
enough. If you keep them clean, and don't smoke,
then you should not have any problems.
Q Can I take the teeth
out if they are fixed to implants?
A Most artificial teeth attached to implants
can only be placed and removed by the dentist.
However, if you have complete dentures fixed
to the implants by bars, then you'll be able
to take them out for cleaning.
Q Do the implants show?
A Your dentist will make sure that the
implants won't show during all normal movements
of the mouth and lips. You will need to be able
to see them, so that you can clean them properly.
Q Do I have an implant
for each missing tooth?
A No, unless you're only having a single
tooth replaced. Normally, five or six implants
are used to replace all the teeth in one jaw,
as each implant can usually support two teeth.
For a few missing teeth, two or three implants
may be used.
Q What if I get hit in the face?
A Implants and the teeth they support
can be damaged by an accident in the same way
that natural teeth can. However, if the false
teeth are damaged and the remnants are left
in the bone then they may be more difficult
to remove than natural teeth would be. After
healing, new false teeth can then be placed
alongside the fragments.
Q What happens if the implant
does not bond (integrate) with the bone?
A This happens very rarely. If the implant
becomes loose during the healing period or just
after, then it is easily removed and healing
takes place in the normal way. Once the jaw
has healed, another implant can be placed there.
Or, the dentist can make a bridge, using the
implanted false teeth that have 'taken'.
Q Is the treatment expensive?
A Unfortunately, yes. However, in many
situations, the cost of the treatment is only
a little more than the cost of more conventional
treatment with crowns and bridges.
There are advantages to it, too. An implant
to replace a single tooth avoids the need to
cut down the teeth either side for crowns to
support a bridge. Normal dentures often mean
you can't eat or speak well, due to the dentures
moving about. But teeth attached to an implant
don't cause this problem.
Q Where do I get this treatment?
A Talk to your dentist, so you can be
referred to a specialist for assessment and
treatment. Your dentist may already carry out
some or all of this type of treatment and will
give you the advice you need.
Remember to ask exactly what treatment is proposed,
what experience the dentist has in this work,
the total cost of the treatment and what the
If you are unhappy with any of the answers
then do ask for a second opinion. You will be
spending a lot of time, effort and money so
you must be sure that you know what you are
getting at the end of treatment.