What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are replacements for missing teeth. Each individual implant acts as an artificial tooth root that is affixed to the jawbone with surgery. An abutment goes on top of the implant, and a crown, which resembles the visible tooth, is fitted to the abutment. The dental implant method of tooth replacement is an alternative to using a bridge or dentures to replace missing teeth.
Why Consider Dental Implants Over Tooth Replacement Alternatives?
There are a number of advantages to choosing dental implants after you’ve lost one or several teeth.
First and foremost, dental implants repair your smile and behave just like normal teeth. Often, when teeth are lost, tasks that were once simple — like eating, drinking, and speaking — become more difficult. Dental implants restore these abilities and are much less cumbersome than dentures, bridges, and other tooth replacement alternatives.
Here are several other benefits of dental implants:
Unlike bridges and dentures, dental implants are permanent. There’s no need to take them out at night before going to bed. And of course, you don’t have to worry about them accidentally falling out or becoming loose.
As long as you treat your implants properly and care for them according to your oral surgeon’s guidelines, they will last for many years.
2. No cavities
Many people end up losing their teeth because of extensive cavities.
When cavities grow so pervasive that the tooth needs to be removed or breaks on its own, it can be extremely painful, not to mention inconvenient. Because dental implants are not real teeth, they cannot get cavities. While it’s still important to continue brushing and flossing, this convenience means that tooth decay in your dental implants will never be a problem, and this, in itself, can help lessen your chances of gum disease.
3. A natural smile
Unlike dentures, dental implants look absolutely natural. They are fitted to exactly replace your lost teeth and blend seamlessly in with the rest of your teeth as well as your gums. No one will know you have a dental implant in — even if it’s replacing one of your most visible teeth.
Dental implants are much more convenient than bridges and dentures because they are virtually permanent. Additionally, there is no intensive care necessary — no need to remove them and use soaking detergents or special cleansers.
Generally speaking, there’s no need to avoid any particular foods with dental implants — while you certainly must with bridges and dentures.
Though some surgeons and dentists will recommend some dietary alterations (cutting apples before biting into them, for example), you can enjoy basically all the foods and drinks you love with dental implants. They are extremely strong, durable, and resilient.
6. Bone loss prevention
Having a strong jawbone is essential for having strong teeth. Unfortunately, if a tooth is lost, this void in the gum line can result in significant bone atrophy over time. By restructuring the jaw bone with a replacement tooth root (the dental implant), atrophy can be greatly reduced, and the structural strength of the jawbone can be preserved.
7. Adjacent teeth stability
Just as the jaw bone can deteriorate when teeth go missing, surrounding teeth can be negatively affected as well. This happens when adjacent teeth tend to “migrate” toward empty spaces in the gum line where teeth have been lost.
Replacing lost teeth with dental implants, on the other hand, helps keep your remaining teeth strong and stable. It also helps prevent a poor bite from forming, which can cause additional issues down the line, like temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJ. Extended conditions like these may only cause more problems as well. For example, TMJ is associated with further tooth loss.
8. Improved confidence
It’s common to feel embarrassed about losing teeth. While there should never be a moral judgement about someone in this situation, fixing the problem with a natural-looking solution is the best way to restore confidence in your smile again.
Who Is a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
For the most part, any patient who is interested in dental implants should be able to move forward with the procedure.
Still, not everyone is a good candidate for dental implants. The good news is that if you are initially told that you’re not a good candidate, there are often several dental procedures you can undergo, which may later qualify you for implants down the line.
For now, let’s examine some of the issues that may come into play and bar you from getting dental implants:
- Age: Generally speaking, individuals who have not completed puberty yet may be at higher risk for implant complications.
- Poor health: Patients should be healthy overall as those in poor health may struggle with parts of the procedure like sutures, incisions, or the use of anesthesia.
- Medications: Certain medications can cause surgery complications. The patient must either stop taking these medications or talk to their doctor and switch prescriptions.
- Diabetes: Diabetes must be under control before getting dental implants.
- Gum disease and/or poor bone density: If you have gum disease or poor bone density, it must be controlled before dental implant surgery can take place. The integrity of your remaining teeth, jaw bone, and gums should be strong and as healthy as possible.
- Pregnancy: Pregnant women should not have dental implant surgery.
What to Expect When Getting Dental Implants
Dental implants require more than one procedure appointment — even when you’re just getting one implant. Every patient’s experience with dental implants will be unique, but generally speaking, here’s what you can expect before, during, and after the entire series of procedures:
It’s important to meet with your oral or maxillofacial surgeon before moving forward with your dental implant. A dentist or orthodontist will generally be able to refer you to a qualified surgeon in your area.
At your consultation appointment, you should review your medical history with your surgeon. It’s important that you are completely candid and outline any medications and/or dietary supplements that you are taking. Be honest about your medical history, and list any illnesses, conditions, or other medical challenges you face. Be sure to mention your history of surgeries as well.
At this appointment, your surgeon may perform a physical examination as well (or this may be an additional appointment). Impressions of your gums and teeth will be made, x-rays will be taken, and if your surgeon determines that you qualify for an implant, they will tailor a treatment plan just for you.
The “implant” portion of a full dental implant tooth replacement is the anchor piece that must be placed within your jawbone. Before anything else occurs, this piece must be implanted securely. During the procedure, local anesthesia will be used (and sometimes IV sedation) to keep you comfortable. Like other dental procedures, you may experience some mild post-op discomfort as well as some minor bleeding and swelling.
After the placement of your implant, a significant amount of time must pass before your next appointment. During this time, the implant placement will heal, and another process will take place as well: Osseointegration. This is the process of your jaw binding together with your new implant.
Complete osseointegration can take up to several months, during which time you will likely be put on a special diet so that the placement site is able to properly heal. In some cases, you may receive a temporary tooth to place over the implant. This is something you can discuss with your surgeon.
Your surgeon will continually track your progress and ensure that the implant has bonded securely with your jaw bone. Once this step is complete, it’s time to attach the abutment at your next surgical appointment. The abutment is a small connector piece that connects the implant to the crown (false tooth). Some patients are able to have their abutments placed at the same time as their implants, but this is not always possible.
Crown Fitting and Attachment
You will need to wait an additional amount of time after your abutment placement so that all of the swelling and healing can be resolved at your surgical site. At this time, an artificial tooth (or teeth) will be made to replace your missing teeth. These teeth (or crowns) will be attached to the abutments/implants. This process sometimes requires several fittings and checkups to ensure that the crowns are working well with your bite and feel comfortable in your mouth.
Additional appointments will be necessary periodically so that your surgeon can continually ensure that your implants are healthy and strong.
Complete recovery from a dental implant may take up to nine months, though it’s important to remember that everyone’s situation will be different.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost on Average?
As stated above, every patient will have a different experience with dental implants. One patient may need to several teeth removed, plus bone grafting performed, before several implants can be placed, and crown fitting can take place. This could take upwards to a year. Another patient may have a textbook single dental implant, which can be done in just a few procedures and take only three months overall.
Naturally, this wide range of procedural outcomes will greatly impact the ultimate cost of your implants.
Still, we can do some estimating when it comes to implant cost.
What most people notice about the cost of dental implants is that, even though the upfront bill is often larger, the ultimate cost you will pay to take care of your missing teeth with implants is comparable to alternative tooth replacement methods. In other words, because dental implants are virtually permanent and can last a lifetime, they pay for themselves over time. With alternative methods like bridges or dentures, you’ll inevitably pay over and over again with time, making them just as expensive as implants and far more inconvenient and uncomfortable.
Basically, you can expect to pay between $3000 and $4,500 for one dental implant.
If you are replacing a partial set of teeth (or a full set), expect the bill to be much higher — anywhere from $20,000 to $45,000.
While those numbers may seem high, especially if you’re looking at replacing several teeth with implants, you do have options when it comes to paying for your dental implants:
Insurance: Now more than ever, dental insurance is kicking in to cover the costs of dental implants. While insurance may not cover the full amount of your implant, it can certainly help lessen the blow of having to pay the entire bill at once.
Payment plans: Speak to your surgeon about financing options. Often, with a credit check, you’ll qualify for a payment plan that’ll allow you to pay your bill with flexible monthly payments and reasonable interest rates.
Are You Interested in Getting Dental Implants?
Dental implants provide essential restoration to your oral anatomy, and they can last a lifetime. This makes them a secure and reliable investment when it comes to fixing missing teeth. Implants also require limited special care and result in a long list of other significant benefits.
If you have been considering dental implants to take care of missing teeth, speak to your dentist or orthodontist today about your options. Once you are referred to a surgeon who can perform the procedure, you can begin formulating a treatment plan that will work for you.