What Are Dental Implants – FAQ’s

What is a dental implant?

A dental implant is a prosthetic replacement for a missing tooth. Natural teeth consist of the crown and the root. The crown is the visible section that is covered with white enamel.

Supporting the crown is the tooth root which extends into the jawbone. The root is the part of the tooth that is effectively replaced by an implant.

There are commonly three parts to what is described as an implant — the implant device itself (which is inserted directly into the bone), the abutment — the piece that connects the implant device to the third part — the overlying crown.

Today’s implants are predominantly made of titanium, a metal that is bio-compatible and offers strength and durability as well as a unique property that allows it to fuse directly to bone – the process known as osseointegration.


What is Osseointegration?

Dental implants work by a process known as osseointegration, which occurs when bone cells attach themselves directly to the titanium surface, essentially locking the implant into the jaw bone.


What is an Osseointegrated implant?

Osseointegrated implants can be used to support prosthetic tooth replacements of various designs and functionality, replacing anything from a single missing tooth to a full arch (all teeth in the upper and/or lower jaw). These replacement teeth are usually made to match the natural enamel colour of each patient which offers a completely natural appearance and a whole new smile.


What is the overall sucess rate for dental implants?

The dental profession can proudly report success rates well above 90% for most implant patients. Similarly, long-term success rates are in the high 90% range and are likewise improving since the introduction of dental implant surgery. Despite decades of research spent on implant success the complexity of the human body means that 100% success is a goal which will always remain just out of reach. But we are always working as hard as possible to achieve that.


What happens when an Implant does not osseointegrate?

When a dental implant has not successfully integrated, it may need to be removed, as it cannot easily be “converted” to osseointegrate.

Dr Johnston will give you best advice about this. A replacement implant can be placed but it may require some months of healing time and possibly bone augmentation (repair by means of grafting).

Likewise, if a previously placed implant has lost significant amounts of supporting bone, there are currently no treatments that can predictably restore the lost bone after it has been in function in the mouth. Every case is individual but the usual treatment for this is to diagnose the reason for failure (so that the failure is not repeated), then remove the implant, allow healing to take place and place a new implant.



How long does it take for implants to heal?

Healing times for implants vary depending on the quality of the patient’s bone and are often extended in cases where adjunctive procedures are necessary. In general, dental implants require 3 -6 months for the bone to heal. Research into the mechanisms of bone attachment to titanium has improved the healing process to the point that some implant manufacturers can claim greatly shortened healing times for their products (but this is generally not the norm).

In recent years, research has demonstrated that in certain controlled circumstances, dentists can immediately load implants (connect prosthetic teeth) either the same day or shortly after they have been placed. While this is becoming increasingly common, most cases require a healing period of two to four months before the prosthetic restoration can be finalised.



How are dental implants placed?

The vast majority of dental implant surgery procedures are performed at the rooms of the Ballarat Implant Centre and very occasionally in a hospital setting. Local anesthesia is adequate for a large number of cases but large cases or for very anxious patients we can use Intra venous sedation techniques performed by our visiting sedationist.

Adjunctive surgical procedures, such as bone grafting, may be performed as separate procedures or at the same time as implant placement. Each surgical procedure is different depending on the clinical situation as well as the preferences of the patient and what Dr Johnston may suggest is appropriate for greatest success.


Why is the surgical procedure a multi-step procedure?

The most widely practiced method of placing dental implants is a “staged surgery” procedure. The first stage consists of surgically burying the implant (which replaces the tooth root) flush with the bone but underneath the gum.

This protects the implant from force while it is healing, which encourages successful osseointegration. At the end of this healing period, the implant needs to be surgically exposed by removing some of the overlying gum. At this second stage, Dr Johnston checks the implant for its successful integration and connects what is known as a healing abutment which penetrates through the gum into the mouth.

Abutments come in many forms and can be stock-manufactured or custom-moulded by your dentist and a laboratory. The gum is allowed to heal around the abutment and form a cuff or collar through which Dr Johnston has access to the implant during the final restorative stage when the prosthetic tooth or teeth are placed.