Implants are "screw in teeth". Modern implants are made of Titanium metal which osseointegrates ("fuses") with bone. There must be adequate bone in which to place an implant, though grafting (adding bone) can sometimes be carried out to increase the amount of bone available. To have implants patients need to have healthy mouths free of dental disease and need to be generally fit and healthy. There is a much higher failure rate of implants in those who smoke. Surgery is necessary to place implants, though often they can be inserted under local anaesthetic. In this country we do not normally provide implants until patients have stopped growing.
The surgeons who place and restore implants need special training. There will be many stages involved in the provision of implants and it is important that they are carefully planned and executed. The implants can be used to anchor single teeth, bridges or dentures. In the dental literature good success rates have been recorded for implants and the future looks promising. However there are other ways of replacing missing teeth (which indeed may be more appropriate) and it is important that you discuss these with your dentist before embarking on a course of treatment.
Implants are generally not available under the NHS. Those dentists outside NHS hospitals who provide implants will do so on a private basis. The costs can be high and you must establish these before treatment. Within NHS hospitals there is an extreemely limited budget for the provision of implants. These will generally be dental teaching hospitals and strict criteria will be applied to referred patients. The high priority groups of patients will depend on the individual hospital. Though often they will be those patients: who have not developed teeth; have lost teeth through trauma; are unable to wear complete dentures. Sometimes they will be provided for those who have lost teeth through oral cancer, though because of the effects of radiotherapy on bone they may not be appropropriate.