a dental implant (also known as an endosseous implant or fixture) is a surgical component that interfaces with the bone of the jaw or skull to support a dental prosthesis such as a crown, bridge, denture, facial prosthesis or to act as an orthodontic anchor.
they are used to replace missing teeth. typically made of titanium, implants are screws that are placed into the jaw bone. the bone then grows into the threads of the screw and becomes ‘fixed’ i.e. implanted. the process is known as osseointegration.
within aseptic surroundings, bone is exposed in the jaw where the tooth is missing. the screw is inserted into the bone and the gum is stitched over it. it is then left for 3 months to allow the bone to integrate with it. if the integration is successful a second procedure is planned when the implant is exposed and the surface structure is made to fit the implant.
not everyone is suited for dental implants.the gums must be healthy and there must be adequate depth and width of jawbone to house the titanium screw, although techniques are available to add additional bone if needed. dental hygiene must be excellent and maintenance i.e. regular dental visits are essential. general health is an important factor too, diabetics and smokers, for example, are not candidates for successful dental implant work as healing is diminished and the osseointegration less likely to occur.
the technology is however, very, very clever indeed. whilst implants are still no substitute for ‘real’ teeth, they certainly have improved the quality of life, in terms of eating, speaking and aesthetics, for many, many people.