How natural-looking is a dental implant? Which people aren’t suitable candidates for dental implants? “How much does a dental implant cost? A dentist answers these and other commonly-asked implant-related patients’ questions
Dr Leonard Linkow is widely-acknowledged as the ‘father’ of dental implants.
He placed his first dental implant in 1952, just four months after he came out of dental school. In 2011 implant procedures are often performed by similarly-inexperienced dentists who have merely attended a relevant training course.
But it is far preferable for a clinician dealing with your dental implant to have had a high level of training and relevant experience.
This is the case at Ethicare dental practice which is based in London. Dental implants there are carried out by a specialist Prosthodontist who has vital relevant experience of the various crowns, bridges and dentures which are placed on top of implants.
What are dental implants?
Implants are used to replace a missing tooth or to replace a tooth that needs extraction. This is not only done for cosmetic reasons; the teeth on either side can start to overlap the gap over time – sometimes leading to problems with the bite and gum disease.
They act as an anchor for a non-removable false tooth such as a crown; they basically serve the same purpose as the root of a tooth.
Preparation for dental implants
You need sufficient bone to place an implant on; bone-grafting procedures can often rebuild bone so that implants can be placed.
Dental implant Q & A
I asked Dr Glafcos Tombolis, who runs Ethicare dental practice with his wife Klaudia, some more questions about the implant procedure.
Question: How realistic and natural-looking are dental implants? Would you be able to tell if I had one in my mouth?
Glafcos Tombolis (GT): They are very discreet-looking and unobtrusive so no, I wouldn’t be able to tell that you had an implant! Dental implants are aesthetically very easy on the eye but their main advantage for patients is that, unlike alternatives such as dentures, they aren’t removable – they won’t slide out.
Q: How long does the implant procedure take?
GT: Usually just an hour.
Q: Is recovery quick after the procedure?
GT: Yes, it’s very quick. Often patients experience a little discomfort for a day or two, occasionally they are sore for a week but generally it is a relatively pain-free process and the results really are superb.
Q: Under what circumstances would patients not be suitable candidates for dental implants?
GT: It’s very rare that a patient will not be a suitable candidate for this procedure. But we do look very carefully at patients’ medical history and if there are issues – such as a low tolerance of surgery – then we are happy to discuss alternative ways of treating missing teeth. A lack of bone is the main reason for being cautious about implants but bone grafting can solve this problem.
Q: Is it true that when an implant is fitted, sometimes three to six months elapse before the crown is fitted?
GT: Yes, this is perfectly true but there is a good reason for this. Once the implant is fitted, you have to be patient and wait for the bone to grow in and around the implant. This will provide an excellent support once the crown goes on top. The success rate of dental implants tends to be a lot better if you wait.
Q: Do implants need much maintenance?
GT: You have to look after the implant and crown just as you would look after a normal tooth. Neglecting them can result in gum problems. The screws which hold the implants in can also break or untighten, so we always advise patients to take care. But by establishing a normal routine, maintenance is easy and won’t take up much time.
Q: What is the cost of implant treatment at Ethicare?
GT: It costs £2,700 for an implant and a crown.
Q: Are implants becoming more popular as a way of replacing missing teeth?
GT: Yes, compared to alternative methods such as bridges and dentures, this procedure is becoming much more in-demand. The prices are constantly coming down which makes an implant an even more attractive option!