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It can be confusing when your dentist recommends procedures to you. What’s the difference between a bridge and an implant? And what is the difference between a crown and a false tooth? We’ve prepared a series of fact sheets so that, the next time you go to the dentist, you can be prepared. We’ve cut through the jargon, drilled past all the technical talk and explained what different things mean in a way that everyone can understand.

This fact sheet focuses on dental implants. What are they? What does the treatment involve? And why would your dentist recommend them for you?

What are dental implants?

Let’s imagine for a moment that you have lost a tooth – let’s say, you lost it during a game of rugby. These things happen. You need a false tooth to replace the one you lost, that seems obvious enough. But how will that false tooth be fixed into your mouth? The answer is by an implant – a titanium rod that is cemented into your jawbone so that it holds your new, perfectly shaped false tooth in place.

What does the treatment involve?

Treatment will vary for each patient. Implants can be fitted for a single missing tooth or for a number of them at the same time. Your dentist will also have to evaluate whether your jawbone is strong enough to hold the implants.

However, implant are now routine procedure and most operations are straightforward. The implant will usually be drilled and cemented into your jawbone under a local anaesthetic. However, if a patient has a particular phobia about dentistry, sedation may be preferred.

The false tooth is then prepared to match the rest of the patient’s teeth. A period of time will usually elapse before the false tooth is fitted, to ensure that the implant rod is secure enough and properly cemented in place. Once the tooth is fitted, the rod is no longer visible and your false tooth should look entirely natural.

How do I look after implants?

Your dentist will provide you with a detailed breakdown of how to care for your implants immediately after the operation. Once the soreness has disappeared and the false tooth cemented in place, cleaning your implants is not different to cleaning your natural teeth.

What questions do I need to ask my dentist?

One of the big talking points for people interested in implants is the cost. Implants can be very expensive, although they should also be hard-wearing and last a long time. When you have an initial consultation with your dentist, ensure that you request a full treatment programme with a clear itemisation of costs. This will give you an idea of the total costs involved and of the timescales required.

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