Dental implants are a comprehensive and long term solution to replacing missing teeth, but with prices starting from around £1,000 at the very bottom end of the scale and with figures around £1,500-£2,000 (or more) for an average implant, it is an investment that requires a good understanding of what the procedure entails.
If you have one or more missing teeth and find that conventional bridges or dentures aren’t working out for you, or if you would prefer a low-maintenance, permanent tooth replacement, your dentist may recommend that you consider dental implants.
Dental implants are a comprehensive and long term solution to replacing missing teeth, which does not require compromising the structure or integrity of the neighbouring teeth like when placing bridge work, nor the daily care and management necessary for dentures.
Once fitted, tooth implants look and feel just like a natural tooth, and are just as strong and hardwearing. However, implants are not necessarily a quick fix for a missing tooth and dental implant prices can be prohibitive for many potential candidates, as they are not usually available on the NHS.
In this guide, we will go over what you need to know about dental implants, their costs, benefits and limitations, in order to help you fully understand if you might be a good candidate and prior to making a decision about treatment. Discussing your treatment plan thoroughly with an accredited implantologist is essential and recommended nevertheless.
Dental implants are a revolutionary method of restoring one or more missing teeth. Unlike other methods of replacing missing teeth and placing false teeth (dentures or bridges), tooth implants are rooted into the jawbone itself with a post (usually made of titanium, but zirconium is sometimes offered as an alternative option) onto which a tooth-coloured ceramic crown or bridge can be placed.
There are three individual component parts to a dental implant:
Tooth implants can be used to replace just one missing tooth using a post, abutment and crown-or for two or more missing teeth, using a post at either end of the gap with bridge work replacing the teeth themselves, negating the need for a post to be placed above every gap to treat multiple teeth.
The placement of the post of the implant within the jawbone serves as a type of artificial root in order to anchor the visible part of the missing tooth or teeth with a crown or bridge, providing integrity and strength. Over time, the bone of the jaw fuses with the implant post itself in a process called osseointegration, ensuring that it is strong and secure. Once the post has been placed and given time to settle, the tooth side of the post will be revealed, and the bridge or crown placed onto it. The time necessary for osseointegration varies and depends on many factors such as a patient’s original bone density, whether artificial bone had to be placed or other accessory procedures required in order to make the area being replaced with implant(s) viable. An experienced implantologist will be able to access a patient’s individual case through the use of clinical examination, dental history, X-rays and CT- scans along with other diagnostic methods in order to discuss a thorough treatment plan and timeline. Usually 2 months will be required from the moment an implant is placed to actually having the permanent crown or bridge fitted.
Tooth implants are a comprehensive and long term solution to correct one or more missing teeth, but they are not suitable for everyone.
Dental Implants and Bone Loss: In order to place the implant’s post within the jawbone, the bone itself must be strong and healthy, which means that people who suffer from bone loss or have historical or actual problems with their gums, like periodontal disease, may not be able to have an implant.
Denal Implants and Smoking: Dental implants and smoking are not ideal partners either-and cigarette smokers are not usually good candidates for tooth implants. This is because smoking increases the risks for a wide range of oral problems, including bone loss, periodontal disease, and peri-implantitis, which is an inflammatory condition that affects both the hard and soft tissue surrounding the implant.
This means that if you smoke, you may find at the initial stages of investigation that an implant will be unsuitable for you due to the compromised integrity of your bones and mouth, or because continuing to smoke will greatly elevate the risks of the implant failing.
However, if your jawbone and mouth are still healthy, you may be able to go ahead with a dental implant if you stop smoking-and accept that you will have to commit to staying nicotine-free for life, in order to avoid compromising your implant.
Dental Implants and Diabetes: There are also challenges involved in using dental implants for diabetic patients, and again, for many diabetic people, implants may be unsuitable.
However, this is not always the case, and implant surgery may still be a viable choice for persons whose diabetes is well controlled and stable. Diabetic treatment candidates may need to see a dental implant specialist who is experienced in tooth implants for diabetic patients, and often, a course of antibiotic therapy will be required alongside the treatment to safeguard against complications. Close follow up and maintenance will be essential in all cases along with excellent oral hygiene and general dental exams.
From start to finish, having a tooth implant fitted is a fairly lengthy process, and by no means a quick fix. However, the timeframe is justified for most people by virtue of the fact that a dental implant is designed to be long lasting and low-maintenance.
First of all, you will need to find a practitioner how is specialised in implants at a clinic that offers dental implant surgery, and book an initial consultation. Then, you will go through a range of exploratory investigations to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for implants, once the viability of placing an implant is assessed a treatment plan with pricing and breakdown will allow you to budget or arrange financing for the costs and the process can begin.
Image: Example of x-ray prior to tooth implants being fitted
Image: Example of a single dental implant with screw, abutment and crown
The placement of the post part of the implant and if necessary, bone grafting beforehand, requires an effective local anaesthetic to be used in order to avoid pain and keep you comfortable.
However, if you are nervous or very worried about this part of the process, some clinics may also be able to offer sedation or even a general anaesthetic if you prefer. Your dentist may prescribe painkillers and/or anti inflammatory medications for you to use at home after the procedure, while the bone and soft tissue heals and settles around the implant.
When your dentist uncovers the implant to begin the work of placing the tooth, you may again need a local anaesthetic so that you can relax and avoid pain.
Whilst still a minor surgery, some of the stages of dental implant placement are invasive and would be painful without an anaesthetic-but your dentist will carefully manage and monitor you during treatment to ensure that you cannot feel anything and are not in any pain.
When used appropriately and properly cared for, dental implants are considered to be a permanent form of correction for missing teeth-however, this does not mean that they will necessarily last a lifetime.
Dental implants can and sometimes do fail, and just as your natural teeth, gums and jawbone can weaken and decay over time, this affects the integrity of your implant. The very first dental implant ever performed took place in 1965, and remained intact until the patient’s death over forty years later. However, because tooth implants have only really become a common and mainstream treatment option over the last twenty years or so, there is not yet a significant amount of data available on the average overall lifespan of dental implants in the long term.
That said, the vast majority of patients who had tooth implants fitted fifteen to twenty years ago when the procedure first began to take off still have their original implants in place, hence dental implants being considered a premium, permanent method of correcting missing teeth.
Dental implant costs can vary considerably from case to case, due to the sheer number of variables involved. The factors that go towards determining the cost include the charging structure of the clinic performing the procedure, the condition of the jawbone and mouth, if bone grafts, extractions or other preparatory treatments are required, and how many implant posts and crowns or bridges are required.
For a single tooth implant placed into a healthy jawbone, dental implants prices start from around £1,000 at the very bottom end of the scale, with figures around £1,500-£2,000 (or more) being the average. More complicated procedures that require bone grafting, or two or more implants to replace multiple missing teeth are of course more expensive.
The dentist that you choose will be able to provide you with a definitive dental implant cost after you have undergone the initial assessment and consultation process. Many clinics also offer finance options and credit facilities too, in order to allow you to spread the cost of your dental implant and make it more affordable.
Unfortunately, NHS dental treatments do not generally extend to covering tooth implants. NHS dental treatments are limited to essential treatments only, using the most cost-effective method-which means that dentures or bridges are likely to be the only treatment options open to you to replace or correct a missing tooth under the remit of NHS dental services.
However, if a tooth implant is deemed to be the only appropriate method of treatment for a missing tooth-such as for patients whose face and teeth have been damaged by mouth cancer or who are unable to wear dentures-it may be possible to undergo dental implant surgery under the remit of NHS treatment protocols.
Your dentist will be able to tell you more about whether or not this may be viable, and how to proceed.
If you are looking for a comprehensive, long term or permanent solution to one or more missing teeth and are willing to take the time to undergo the full dental implant procedure-as well as able to fund the treatment-dental implants may well be the best choice for you.
If you are keen to avoid damaging adjoining teeth by placing a bridge over a gap and want to avoid worrying about damaging the bridge and having to undergo repeat treatments over the course of your life-or if you don’t want the limitations and inconvenience of wearing dentures-a dental implant is a great alternative.
However, if you smoke, suffer from diabetes or are otherwise a borderline or unsuitable candidate for dental implants, or if the timeframe and work involved or dental implant price-is prohibitive, a tooth implant may not be appropriate. This is why the initial consultation with an implantologist is essential and any X-rays or scans required in order to fully assess your situation and plan the appropriate options for you.
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