Dental implants – the ultimate to replacing your missing teeth

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Joe Bhat is a specialist oral surgeon and prosthodontist at Moor Park Dental Centre. Here, he shares his tips to finding the right dental implant system for you

Why should I see a Specialist Prosthodontist for my implants?
Provision of implants is now undertaken by a number of clinicians and there is no specific specialisation attributed to implant dentistry. There are many general dental practitioners who are more than capable of undertaking implant reconstruction and, within the specialist world, prosthodontists, oral surgeons and periodontists are known to undertake it at various levels. A specialist prosthodontist is trained in dental reconstruction at the highest level. Patients do not pay for an implant placed within bone but for an aesthetically pleasing fully functional tooth. As the complexity of reconstruction grows, the need to have appropriate training in dental reconstruction becomes all the more important. This is where specialist prosthodontist training is most desirable.

I heard that there are many implant systems, how do I know what system will suit me?
There is no single implant system that could fit all patient requirements and all clinicians. Understandably therefore, there is a lot of competition amongst companies to gain the favour of the dentist. You need to choose carefully and perhaps even consider two implant systems within a practice - if you can justify it. The implant system should have good and long clinical data, be straightforward to use from a surgical and restorative viewpoint and be versatile enough to be used in different clinical scenarios. However, what is also of high importance is the support that the company provides to the clinician. This support not only encourages the clinician and provides adequate product knowledge, it also provides reassurance that the industry is behind them.

Why are they better than dentures?
Implants provide a more varied option for patients when it comes to dental reconstruction. Implants can be used to retain dentures and provide fixed reconstruction for single or multiple missing teeth. Implants are the closest thing to nature for replacing teeth and research has clearly shown that the biting and chewing efficiency of teeth retained with dental implants is far greater than standard dentures. Therefore, they greatly improve quality of life.

Is it safe?
Like all surgical procedures, there is always an element of risk involved. The risk can be eliminated through careful planning, surgical expertise of the clinician and good patient compliance. With the advent of technology like cone beam CT scans, the error factor can be reduced even more and make it very safe for patients to enjoy the benefits of dental implants.

How long do they last?
We have sound 20 years of data on the current form of dental implants, which show greater than 90% success rate. This compares far more favourably than any other dental treatment currently available to replace missing teeth. The longevity of implants once they have integrated is entirely dictated by the patient’s own habits like smoking and maintenance of excellent oral hygiene. If this is adhered to, there is no reason why implants should not last longer.

Do I have to change my diet if I have them fitted?
You may need to be on a soft diet for a week to 10 days after surgery and after integration of the implant in three months, you would need to gradually build up confidence in chewing harder food. It is not advisable to load the implants excessively by the consumption of food, such as cracklings, betel nut and other hard nuts as the ceramic teeth may not be able to take such undue forces. However, you can enjoy a standard healthy diet far better than with the use of a denture.

Do I have to change my oral health routine?
Use of implants would increase the complexity of reconstruction in the mouth. Therefore, you would need to change your oral hygiene regime to cater for the care of the dental implants. The implant restorative dentist and an appropriately trained hygienist would be in the position to guide patients regarding maintenance of meticulous oral hygiene around teeth and implants. The team would then recommend regular check ups with the dentist and visits to the hygienists depending on the level of care that is required.

How often will I have to see my dentist after they have been placed?
After the implant has been restored with a crown, a dentist would need to check the level of bone around the implants. This varies from six monthly to annual visits. Radiographs (X-rays) may be necessary at these visits to confirm diagnosis.

Isn’t it cheaper to go abroad to have implants placed?
Implant treatment should not be based on cost but entirely based on the care that is provided. Even under experienced and trained clinicians, complications do arise. If implants are undertaken abroad, patients routinely find it hard, if not impossible, to keep travelling back to have it rectified. What is of more importance is that sterilisation and infection protocols in certain countries are not as stringent as in the UK. Therefore, you are exposed to undue risk as implant treatment is a minor surgical procedure. Clinicians in the UK have to be accountable for the work that they have performed and therefore, in the long run, the treatment is more cost effective if undertaken in the country where you live.

What three questions should I always ask before I allow a dentist to place implants?
1. Are you qualified to place and restore implants and what training have you undertaken in this field?
2. Do you audit your own implant cases and what is your success rate?
3. Do you have a portfolio of cases that I can see and speak to one of your patients who has undergone the treatment?

How can I be sure the dentist is qualified to place them?
The General Dental Council website is user friendly for the public to check the registration and qualifications of the clinician involved. In this day and age it would be appropriate to ask the clinician directly of the training that they have undertaken prior to commencing treatment.
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