For millennia, people have placed great value in having a full set of teeth. Yet for most of human civilization, there has been no way of replacing missing or broken teeth. It was not until 1952 that the properties needed to replace missing or broken teeth were discovered, by orthopaedic surgeon and research professor Dr. Per-Ingvar Brånemark. Today’s dental implants, known as “endo-osseous” dental implants, have been around since the 1980s and have revolutionised oral care in the United Kingdom. The science of making and fitting dental implants has improved to such an extent that we are at a point where dental implants are as good as natural teeth and in some ways, even better. As dental implants become cheaper, access to them is increasingly democratised. Thanks to implant dentistry, dentists in the UK are able to offer a level of care that was unthinkable just a century ago.
What are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are titanium fixtures that are surgically fused with your jawbone in order to achieve ‘osseointegration’ of the implant screw with the jaw bone and replace the root of your tooth. The dental implant supports a dental prosthesis such as a bridge, crown, denture, or facial prosthesis, or to act as an orthodontic anchor.
The entire procedure, from implant to placing the dental prosthesis, is six weeks to six months, depending on the quality of a person’s bone. Poor bone leads to longer healing time and this can extend beyond six months.
Although there are risks and potential complications to any surgery, the success rate for implant dentistry is very high, at 90% to 95%. They are designed to look like your natural teeth. For most patients, dental implants prove to be secure, stable replacements for their teeth.
Who Is Eligible for Dental Implants?
Not every patient qualifies for dental implant surgery. Dentists vet patients according to various success factors such as the condition of your jawbone. Prior to selection for surgery, a dentist will take a patient through various tests to see if their jawbone could handle dental implant surgery or if other factors could compromise the success of the surgery. Nevertheless, the Association of Dental Implantology believes that most adults with good teeth will be eligible for dental implants.
According to the Royal College of Surgeons, patients who get dental implants experience an improvement in their quality of life, thanks to a better ability to chew food, and improved social functioning. Evidence of the long-term oral health benefits of dental implants continue to grow. In fact, the College argues that anyone who can experience a “tangible health benefit” from dental implants compared to conventional treatments, should be able to get them, taking into account patient-related factors that affect the success of an operation.
Access to dental implants is funded either wholly by patients, or through medical insurance schemes or the National Health Service (NHS). Patient priority groups considered eligible for NHS-funded dental implants are those with:
- Congenital, inherited conditions that have led to missing teeth, tooth loss or malformed teeth;
- Traumatic events leading to tooth loss;
- Surgical interventions resulting in tooth and tissue loss, for example, head and neck cancer and non-malignant pathology;
- or congenital or acquired conditions with extra-oral defects of, for example, eyes or ears;
- Or those who are edentulous in either one jaw or both in whom repeated conventional denture treatment options have been unsuccessful;
- Or those with severe oral mucosal disorders and those with severe xerostomia where conventional prosthetic treatment is not possible and/or the provision of conventional treatment would be detrimental to the mucosal disorders;
- Or those who do not have suitable existing teeth that can be used for anchorage to facilitate orthodontic treatment
Quality of Life
Dental implants offer significant long-term health benefits to patients from a functional and social aspect and can be a cost-effective alternative to conventional treatments. In light
of the emerging evidence of dental implant treatment on long-term oral health gain and
biological benefits, this treatment should be available to patients if a tangible health benefit can be achieved, when compared with conventional treatment options, notwithstanding the role of patient-related factors influencing successful outcomes.
According to the best dentists, tooth loss causes a deterioration in the quality of life, impacting self-esteem, confidence and function. Dental implants address this decline in the quality of life, as well as improving oral-health related quality of life. Patients who are offered dental implants in a systematic and structured way benefit immensely from dental implants from both an oral health and social perspective.
Dentists have worked hard to ensure that they rigorously assess patient case history and success factors, and plan the surgery and post-surgery treatment. Dentists are able to work at a high standard to compliment the preparatory work they do to get the surgery right.