Dental implants are one way of replacing missing teeth. Implants look and feel just like ordinary teeth because of the way in which they are placed into the mouth - a procedure which involves mounting the implants onto posts and then inserting them into the jaw during surgery.
Although there are many advantages to having implants, they are not suitable for everyone. You need to have healthy gums and be in good general health. You also need enough jawbone to take the posts and support the replacement teeth. Some chronic diseases, such as diabetes, osteoporosis or chronic sinus problems can interfere with healing and so make implants more likely to fail.
If you choose to have implants, you will undergo surgery twice or more over a period of several months. Because this is a complicated form of treatment, implants can also be expensive.
Your dentist will go through each stage of the treatment with you before it begins and also give you a timetable for completing treatment. You might be referred to a specialist.
The dentist will expose the bone in the jaw where the tooth is missing. Then he/she will drill a hole and insert a metal post into the bone. This is usually done under a local anaesthetic, but sometimes sedation or, if you are in hospital, a general anaesthetic is used. The gum is then stitched over the post and it's left to heal for several months, while the bone grows around the post, making it secure.
After this period, there will be a second operation, in which replacement teeth are mounted onto the metal post. This requires a small cut in the gum above the implant. The replacement teeth might be single or in a group, and they can also possibly be inserted as a 'bridge', attached to neighbouring natural teeth. They may be fixed permanently, or attached in a way that lets you remove them for cleaning.
After surgery for implants, it is absolutely essential for you to maintain strict mouth hygiene and to visit your dentist regularly.