Dentist Dr Sairah Shah offers some thoughts on who can benefit from having dental implants.
Along with our other Confidental Clinic practices, we are seeing an increasing number of patients coming to us wanting to find out more about dental implants. Now that these are becoming more widely known, they have become an increasingly popular alternative to dentures. This is probably not surprising as they have a number of distinct advantages over this older method of replacing missing teeth.
We have covered the benefits of dental implants, over dentures, in previous blogs, so, today, we will take a look at who might benefit the most from having implants placed instead.
Before we look at groups of patients who may benefit, it is worth reminding patients that the amount of bone available for the implant to be placed into is very important. Whilst a bone graft can be used to build up the bone, for those who have insufficient, this does lengthen the treatment time and so may be a consideration for some.
Who can have implants?
Almost everyone is able to have dental implants, where bone structure is not an issue. There are exceptions however.
Implants should not be placed into patients whose facial features have not fully developed. This predominantly applies to children. To place an implant into an undeveloped jaw bone will almost certainly cause problems as the facial features change. The implant may gradually become out of alignment, and, aside from any aesthetic issues, could prove to cause some discomfort. Implants are also inadvisable for anyone playing a contact sport where a blow to the mouth could damage the implant and jawbone, potentially leading to it failing. Patients falling into this category may wish to consider a removable option such as dentures, until their sporting days are behind them. However for “normal” activities, implants should be fine.
In truth, almost anyone who has a dental implant will benefit from their advantages. The strength and stability of the artificial titanium root means that, once the procedure is complete, you can more or less forget that you have an implant and treat it as you would a natural tooth, including how you clean them!
Implants can be used for all ages except for children. For young adults who have lost a tooth, they are excellent, not only from a practical viewpoint, but also from an aesthetic point of view. Implants will not move in the mouth, and the crown, attached to the implant, can be made to match both the shade and style of your natural teeth, leaving you with an attractive and natural looking smile. This can be important for people at this stage of life where careers and relationships are often being formed. Whilst other factors will also play their part, the knowledge that your dental implants are secure can help to build confidence when ‘meeting and greeting’ others.
The older generation
Older patients may be more likely to have lost teeth, sometimes in significant numbers. With people not only living longer, but also leading an active social life for much longer than previous generations, it is understandable that they may wish to avoid the potentially socially awkward option of dentures. Not only can older people (and others of course) benefit from having an individual tooth replaced by an implant, but they also offer an excellent solution where a number of consecutive teeth, including a full arch of teeth, are missing.
It would be very expensive, and a lengthy procedure, to replace each of these missing teeth individually, and instead, a procedure sometimes called ‘teeth in a day’ or ‘all on 4’ can be used instead. Depending on the situation, this involves the placing of usually four or sometimes five or six dental implants, into strategic areas of the mouth. These are then used to secure a fixed bridge into place. The specially designed rear implants means that once the bridge has been attached, you can eat some foods almost immediately; something you can’t do with individual implant placement. However, we do recommend that you eat soft foods for a while so that the area of the surgery can heal correctly and until you have become fully accustomed to you new implants.
For those patients who already have dentures, a similar procedure can also be used for securing and stabilising them, preventing them from moving in your mouth.
Should you have implants?
Whilst most patients are suitable candidates for implants, there are a number of factors involved in making a decision whether to have them or not. There are a number of key reasons why people may, potentially, have second thoughts.
Pain – Some people think that having implants placed into the jaw must be painful. The reality is that most patients that have the procedure experience no significant discomfort at all. It is an invasive treatment, but a combination of our experienced implant dentists and a powerful anaesthetic means that the vast majority of patients have this procedure without any problems.
Cost – There is no denying that implants are not cheap. Their strength, longevity and usability though, mean that they are still an attractive option. The Confidental Clinic offers a number of payment plans that will help you to spread any cost over a period of time, and the fact that they will last for 20 years or more, with good care, makes them much better value for money than may initially seem to be the case.
Anxiety – Implant placement is a lengthier procedure than many others. This and the invasive nature means that it may deter some nervous dental patients. We do offer IV sedation at our Purley practice which will help anxious patients have the procedure. Please talk to us if you are interested in having implants but anxiety is putting you off.
To find out if you are a suitable candidate to have a dental implant placement, an initial consultation will be necessary. Please book yours at our Purley practice by calling us on 020 8660 8923.
Dr Sairah Shah is a dentist with the Confidental Clinics (GDC ).