Q&A With Dr Emma
Hi Dr Emma, I have two part dentures and the teeth that I do have are very filled and yellow looking. During my younger years, I was always vomiting for a couple of days per month. I clean my teeth every day and eat a healthy diet. I would like to be able to smile without closing my lips to hide my teeth. Can you tell me about dental implants they seem to be the latest thing? Thanks. Val, Mount Nasura, WA
Dental implants can be a great alternative to partial dentures, and are currently considered the "gold standard" for replacing missing teeth. Unfortunately I can't comment on your individual case, as there are a lot of different factors which go into determining who will or won't be a good candidate for implants. If it's something you're interested in, your general dentist can examine you and give you a better idea of whether or not implants are a good option for you.
Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth. They consist of two main parts:
The implant itself, which is a titanium screw surgically implanted in the bone.
The top part which looks like a tooth, which can take the form of a crown, bridge, or denture.
If a single tooth is missing in a space, a single implant can be placed with a ceramic crown which fixes on top. If several teeth are missing, a bridge might be a better option as it joins several teeth together, meaning less implants are needed. If all the teeth in an arch are missing, either a long bridge can be made, or a removable denture which clips onto a few implants.
Placement of an implant is usually done over several stages, but can occasionally be done all in one go. The first stage is to surgically place the titanium implant into the jaw bone, which is usually followed by a healing period of several months. This is to allow for your bone to grow into the screw thread and hold the implant stable and in place. Once the implant has "osseointegrated", (locked into the bone), the crown, bridge, or denture can be made and fitted.
The main advantage of implants over partial dentures is that they provide very stable retention for replacement teeth, without compromising the other teeth in the mouth. As you'd know, partial dentures have clasps which wrap around existing teeth, which can lead to decay or gum problems if oral hygiene isn't perfect. Removable dentures can also be a pest to remove and insert for daily cleaning, and very frustrating if they move around while eating and talking. Implants are fixed in the mouth so are far more solid, and are not removable by their owner. Implants also have an excellent success rate. Research has shown that 90-100% of implants are still there after 5 years, and many people have now had implants in their mouths for over 20 years with no problems.
On the down side, unfortunately implants can be costly, a ballpark figure is around $6000 per implant before your health fund rebate. Undergoing the surgery can also be a daunting aspect for the nervous dental patient, coupled with the same risks which follow any invasive surgery - discomfort while healing, and risk of bleeding or infection.
If implants turn out to be the right way to go for you, they could mean a huge positive change in your dental health and in your life. It's definitely worth looking into.