the Australian Dental Association
Written by the Australian Dental Association, Oct 15, 2021
Fact Checked

Dental implants are a treatment option used to replace teeth missing from the mouth. Implant treatment may be performed by a general dentist, periodontist, oral surgeon or oral maxillofacial surgeon. 

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant can be thought of as an artificial tooth root that looks like a metal screw. The implant is put into the jawbone where the tooth was originally located. Over time, the jawbone that surrounds the implant grows around it to hold the screw securely in place. This takes approximately three months.

An artificial tooth, known as an implant crown, is attached to the dental implant screw to fill the space in the mouth left by the missing tooth. The implant crown is made to match the surrounding teeth in both shape and colour. This treatment is generally completed three months after the screw has been placed to allow time for healing.

Dental implants are used to replace one or more missing teeth within the mouth.

Replacing multiple teeth

 
Implant bridge

Dental implants can replace more than one tooth at a time. This is done using an implant bridge where two or more implant screws are placed into the bone and are joined together by an artificial bridge made of crowns that are connected side-by-side.
 

implant-bridge-(2).jpg

 

Implant-supported denture

A full denture, which replaces all the teeth in one jaw, can also be held in place by dental implants. This is called an "implant-supported denture".

An example of an implant-supported full lower denture. Getty Images. 

Looking after your dental implant

It is important to care for your dental implant/s, much like your natural teeth. They may not be able to develop tooth decay, but they can be affected by gum disease in the same way that teeth are. Inflammation of the gums and bone loss around the implant is known as peri-implantitis. If this is not treated, it can cause the implant to become loose and even fail.

Care for your implant like you do for your other teeth. Brush twice per day, keeping in mind to reach down to the level of the gums. Clean between the implant and next door teeth (or implant/s) daily using floss, interdental brushes, or a water flosser. Your treating dentist or dental specialist should provide you with advice on the best items to care for your implant. Make sure to attend for regular dental hygiene visits with your dentist, a dental hygienist or oral health therapist who will help you to care for your implant.

Advantages of dental implants

There are some advantages of choosing dental implants to replace missing teeth in the mouth. 
  • They look and feel like your own teeth.
  • They are cared for in a similar way to natural teeth.
  • Treatment does not involve or affect the teeth next door to the dental implant. This is of benefit when those teeth have not undergone past dental treatment.

Am I eligible for a dental implant?

Dental implants may not be a viable treatment option for all people. Your dentist will spend time assessing whether this treatment is right for you. One of the most important factors to assess is whether there is enough bone present for an implant to be placed in the area. Dental x-rays will be taken to help the dentist or dental specialist assess this. This will commonly include a 3D x-ray.

Medical conditions and medications can impact on whether someone is suitable for a dental implant. Therefore it is important to let your dentist know your medical conditions and medication, including vitamins and supplements bought from pharmacies and supermarkets. Patients with active severe gum disease (periodontitis) or who are cigarette smokers are not ideal candidates for this treatment.

Alternative treatment options

Dental implants are used to replace missing teeth. Alternative treatment options to replace one or missing teeth include dentures or dental bridges. Each treatment has advantages and disadvantages and your dentist can discuss these thoroughly with you.

Summary

Dental implants are used as a safe way to replace missing teeth. They may not be able to develop tooth decay, but they can be affected by gum disease in the same way that teeth are. To ensure you’re looking after your dental implants, or If you are interested in dental implant treatment, talk to your local dentist about whether this treatment is right for you. You can find an ADA member dentist by using the Find-A-Dentist search tool.