Elderly couple with dental implants smiling.

Perhaps you have a friend who is getting a missing tooth replaced, or you’ve seen the advertisements in the newspaper for a whole new set of teeth. You have heard the term “dental implant” bandied around, but have no idea what they are and how they could possibly work. Read on for a simple explanation of a procedure which has revolutionised modern dentistry and helped improve many people’s lives.

A dental implant is essentially a whole new tooth which is actually anchored in the jawbone, and cannot be taken out. They are generally used to replace teeth which have been lost due to an accident or a dental problem. In some cases, however, they are used for people in the community who have some missing teeth because they never grew in the first place.

How Does It Work?

The procedure is credited to a Swedish doctor who placed the first implant into a living human in the 1960s. He discovered that the implant could actually fuse to the jaw bone in a process known as “osseointegration”. This fusion is the reason that a successful implant cannot be removed from the mouth, and explains why implants are so much more comfortable for a patient than say a denture, which can be removed. The solid nature of a dental implant means a patient can chew on it like a regular tooth.

Does It Look Like A Tooth?

You may be envisioning some kind of titanium monstrosity straight from a robot movie set in the future, but in fact an implant looks just like a real tooth! The anchored part is made of titanium, but that sits under the gum. Above the gum is a dental crown, which attaches to the anchor, and looks just like a normal tooth. Implants aren’t restricted to just replacing one tooth, either. Multiple anchors can be placed to restore an entire arch of teeth. One of the best applications of dental implants has been for people who have struggled for years with a wobbly denture - being able to chew a piece of meat with teeth that don’t move has been absolutely revolutionary!

Is It Painful?

What amazes most patients who have an implant placed, is just how straightforward and painless the procedure is. Most patients will have an injection of anaesthetic to numb the area, just like they would for a filling, and will leave the dental surgery an hour or two later with the dental implant embedded in their jaw. In specific cases the crown can also be placed on this day, but for most people the implant is left to heal for a few months before the final crown is placed. In the meantime a false tooth of some description can be worn to hide the gap. The dentist will prescribe some pain relief to be taken for a few days after the appointment, but often this is just a basic over-the-counter analgesic.

Although dental implants are not suitable for everyone, or every missing tooth, they are becoming a major part of modern dentistry. Thousands and thousands are placed every year in Australia; a number which will continue to increase based on the advances in technology that are occurring in the field on a regular basis.

At Sailors Bay Dental, we offer a range of dental implant services. If you’re interested in dental implants or want to learn more about suitable options, please contact us on (02) 9958 0400, or visit our web page http://www.sailorsbaydentistry.com.au/dental-implants.html for more information.