Dental implants have a success rate at the stage of implantation of nearly 100% and are therefore considered to be an excellent permanent solution to the problem of missing teeth which are unsightly, make eating difficult or damage a patient’s self-esteem. Usually a screw or cylinder shape, the implant is inserted into the jawbone to act like the root of a tooth so that a crown or bridge can be supported. This is considered to be a preferable option to a conventional bridge which requires treatment to additional teeth. By placing the implant into the jawbone it is given initial stability by the close contact that is achieved with the bone; further bone growth on the surface of the implant over a period of time helps to further improve this.
So long as usual dental hygiene is observed by the patient, it is believed that implants offer a long-term solution to the problem of missing teeth. Patients who smoke, for instance, have more than double the rate of implant failure while excessive drinking and failure to adequately clean the implant site also contribute to reduced longevity. While the precise length of time that an implant will last is difficult to quantify, the first patient to receive the treatment in 1965 still retains the original implants today.
Another key benefit of dental implants is to improve oral function, meaning that the jaws and other teeth are able to work normally. All foods, including hard or crunchy ones, can be comfortably eaten and the ‘bite action’ – the physical opening and closing of the jaws – can also be improved.
Scientific studies have demonstrated that implants help to encourage new bone growth. The loss of a tooth may lead to atrophy (the diminishing of the bone at the site) but an implant can help to reverse this and to stimulate the growth of new bone. On occasions bone atrophy that has already occurred may require a bone graft to take place before implants can be inserted but patients should be reassured that this is a straightforward procedure.
Perhaps one the biggest advantages of dental implants is that they help to restore a patient’s smile and therefore their self-confidence. Many patients with missing teeth experience a sense of shame or loss of confidence and actively try to avoid smiling but implants, which are realistic and pleasing to the eye, will help to overcome this problem by returning their dental appearance back to its original condition.