Teeth can be lost due to poor oral hygiene, gum disease, illness, infection or because of accidents. The best way to replace missing teeth is undoubtedly by using a dental implant.
Dental implants are essentially replacement tooth roots made from titanium alloy. They are implanted into the jaw bone in the place of a missing tooth which created a very strong fixture for a crown to be attached to.
Titanium alloy is used for dental implants due to its unique osseointegration properties. Basically this means that the titanium alloy fully adheres to bone creating a secure and tight fixture which allows the attached crown to function completely like a natural tooth.
Dental implants require rather extensive dentistry and not all dentist offer them due to the complexity of fitting them. They also take rather a long time, 4-6 months usually, to be completed. This is because once the jaw bone has had the implant placed; it needs a good few weeks for the bone to osseointergrate and heal over the implant.
Once the implant has fully adhered to the bone, the gum can be opened up and the implant exposed. A post called an abutment can then be attached to the implant and the gum is then left to heal for a further few weeks. Once the gum has fully healed, a mould of the exposed abutment can be taken and from this, a ceramic crown can be created to fit perfectly onto the abutment and with the teeth around it.
Once the crown is fitted, the implant will feel, look and function just like a natural tooth! Many patients forget they even have an implant, which demonstrates how natural they are!
Not everyone is suitable for implants though. If bone levels in the jaw are not high enough for example, an implant will not be able to be fitted. In case like this sometime bone grafting can be undertaken in order to build up a suitable amount of bone. This is extremely extensive dentistry however, and not all cosmetic dentists will be able to do this. Another reason why someone may not be suitable for a dental implant is if they have very bad oral hygiene. In cases like this, cosmetic dentists would not go ahead with implant work as there is a large risk of infection and other problems arising if the patient does not clean their teeth properly.
It is often necessary to take full mouth x-rays to check bone levels before implant work is carried out. Other tests may be used as well such a resting lip pattern tests, smile line tests etc which help the cosmetic dentist to design an extremely natural and aesthetically pleasing tooth for the patient.
Expect to pay around £2000 to £4000 per complete dental implant (including the implant, crown, and abutment). As implant dentistry is complex, time consuming and rather specialist, the price is high. It is however a much better treatment for missing teeth then the alternative, dentures.
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