How can I help make my dental implant treatment a success?

Dental implants are a well-established treatment for the problem of missing teeth.  Implants can be used to support crowns replacing single teeth, bridges that restore a larger span of missing teeth, or even dentures. 

Dental implants have a very good success rate.  According to the Association of Dental Implantology (UK), “In general the success rate for dental implants is around ninety-five per cent.”  Implants are a reliable, predictable way to replace missing teeth.

Technological advances and detailed preparation mean that implant placement is a relatively minor surgical procedure.  Much of the assessment and planning takes place in advance and your dentist will ensure that you are thoroughly informed and supported throughout your treatment.  However, there are many factors under your control which can contribute to the long-term success of your dental implants:

Having enough bone in your jaw

Don’t delay in having implants after teeth are lost.  The bone below the missing tooth will start to shrink (resorb).  This is because it is no longer being stimulated by chewing.  The sooner you have an implant placed, the more bone will be available to anchor the implant.  A dental implant post fuses with the jaw through a process known as osseointegration.  Usually made from titanium, the post replaces the tooth root and creates a secure and stable bond before the replacement tooth is fitted.

Bone in your jaw needs to have sufficient width and depth to support the implant.  The success of your tooth implant is partly dependent upon the foundation that will support it.  However, a lack of bone needn’t be an obstacle for teeth implant treatment.  Dentists can often carry out augmentation procedures to increase the volume.  Should you require a bone graft, you will have to wait for it to heal and fuse with the jaw before the implant can be placed.  This can extend the duration of treatment, but is well worth the extra time and effort involved.  A successful graft makes your jaw strong enough to support dental implants and will greatly improve the treatment outcome.

According to The Oral Health Foundation, “If your implants are well looked after, and if the bone they are fitted to is strong and healthy, you can expect them to last for many years.”

Practising good oral hygiene

After treatment, it will be your responsibility to practise good oral hygiene every day for the optimum health of your implants.  How well you look after your dental implants will have the biggest impact on their longevity.  You should maintain a meticulous daily oral hygiene routine, including brushing and flossing, plus regular check-ups with your dentist.  If you neglect to care for your implants, they will develop a coating similar to what you would get with natural teeth.  If this is left untreated, it can lead to gum infection, soreness and bleeding.  Gum infection can lead to peri-implantitis, where there is deterioration in the bone surrounding the tooth implants, which can lead to implant failure.

The Oral Health Foundation says that, “It’s probably true to say that implants, much like natural teeth, will last for as long as you care for them.  How well you look after your implants – and whether you go for your regular maintenance appointments – will have the biggest impact on how long they will last.”

Adopting a healthy lifestyle

When a tooth implant fails, it is usually because there has been bone loss around the implant.  The most common reasons for this are:

  • Smoking: nicotine in smoke constricts blood vessels and reduces blood flow to the soft tissues, which can affect the immune response.  Smoking restricts and slows the process of healing dramatically and affects the long-term health of gum and bone.  It also increases the risk that implants may not heal properly after they are placed, and makes them more likely to fail over time.
  • Alcohol consumption: if you drink in moderation, your dental implants are unlikely to be affected.  However, even one alcoholic drink within 72 hours of the treatment can cause teeth implants to fail.  This is because alcohol can affect and delay the body’s healing response.  Heavy consumption can increase the risks of implant failure at any stage.
  • Grinding or gritting your teeth: bruxism can cause the replacement crowns to wear down and deteriorate in the same way as natural teeth.  Additionally, grinding your teeth can lead to implant failure due to the added pressure on the titanium post.  Implant movement can disrupt the osseointegration process, which can lead to the dental implant coming loose and failing to integrate.
  • Medical conditions: existing medical conditions can affect the viability of dental implant treatment.  For instance, diabetes can increase the risk of gum disease.  This can lead to peri-implantitis and implant failure.  As with any surgical procedure, it is important to discuss your personal medical history and all the risks and benefits with your implant dentist.

Choosing the right implant dentist

Finding an implant dentist with the right training and experience is a key factor for dental implant success.  Click4teeth is the UK’s largest directory of dentists who provide tooth implants to replace missing teeth.  We can help you find an implant dentist, local to you, with no referral necessary.  Browse our UK directory of implant dentists.

Consult a dentist to find out whether you are suitable to have dental implants.

This article was compiled with the assistance of Dr Colin Gardner.