I answer questions for patients about tooth replacement daily and the topic of dental implants always comes up. This option of rehabilitation is the standard of care in our industry for replacing one or multiple teeth and should be presented as an option for patients. I thought it appropriate to answer some frequently asked questions today for my blog spot. I hope you find this informative!
What is a dental implant?
I would describe dental implants as artificial tooth roots that look similar to a screw. They are placed into the jawbone and we allow them to heal in place in a process called osseointegration. Once integration completes, the dental implants become sturdy bases for supporting one or multiple artificial teeth. These are commonly referred to as crowns or bridges. The implant itself is slightly hollow in the center, with screw threads for a connector known as an “abutment”. The abutment is fastened on top of the dental implant to hold and support your crowns, bridges or other implant prosthetics available. All of these options are custom-made to match your natural teeth and fit your mouth with precision.
According to the American Academy of Implant Dentistry, “modern dental implants have been used successfully for over 30 years. They are the strongest devices available to support replacement teeth – and even better, they allow these new teeth to feel, look and function naturally.” I agree with this notion and most literature in our profession supports this sentiment.
The most common material used for a dental implant is titanium or a titanium alloy. Ceramic may also be used in patients wishing to have a non-metallic option; however, this comes with serious caution as ceramic implants are not as strong and/or predictable as the titanium ones.
Why can’t I just get a bridge to replace my one missing tooth?
Bridges, dentures or partial dentures can replace missing teeth without requiring implants. The missing tooth or teeth can also be left without replacement. This, however, can lead to other problems such as an unstable bite or unwanted movement of the surrounding teeth. Typically, an implant option can be provided with little extra cost, if treatment planned correctly, and can last much longer.
What are the risks of having dental implants placed?
There is always a small chance that the dental implant will fail to integrate with the jawbone and have to be removed. Certain medical conditions can put you at a higher risk for implant failure. As with any surgery, there is a potential risk of surgical complications when placing a dental implant. Improperly positioned dental implants can make it difficult–if not impossible–to place a useful dental restoration in the mouth. Implant supported restorations do not have the exact same feeling as a natural tooth and it is possible to put too much pressure on them when chewing, leading to damage of the implant restoration or opposing tooth.
How long do dental implants last?
With proper care and maintenance, a dental implant can last for more than 25 years. However, jawbone is very dynamic in turn-over, and in the event of drastic changes in systemic and/or oral health the longevity of dental implants can be negatively affected.
How long does it take to get a tooth replaced with a dental implant?
Different circumstances unique to each patient will determine the time frame in which dental implants can be restored to functional teeth. A good time frame to consider is 3-6 months from the time the implant is placed. It is becoming more common in the literature and clinical practice to place the implant at the same time the tooth is removed. The process is described in detail at the consultation appointment.
Do implants really help make dentures better, and if so, how?
I like to tell patients that dental implants will not make a poorly made denture good. They will, however, make a properly fitting denture work much, much better. Properly made dentures have the prosthetic teeth in the correct position with a balanced and equal intensity bite distribution. Implants in this modality will make the denture stay in place more effectively and usually eliminate the need for adhesives.
How much do dental implants cost?
A typical dental implant replacing a single tooth will average, from start to finish, between $3,000-$4,500 with some exceptions. Remember that this does not include the cost of tooth extraction and possible bone grafting or sinus lift procedures that may be needed to ensure adequate bone volume and health.
Does it hurt to have dental implants put in?
You should be careful not to disturb the surgical site immediately after dental implant placement. This means no chewing on the side of the implant and careful cleaning methods for several weeks to a month. The dental implant takes several months to totally fuse to the jaw, so fewer disturbances to the area means a higher success rate. If you have a temporary denture to replace your missing dentition, it is important that the denture does not rub on the surgical site. However, most patients report little to no discomfort 2-3 days after the procedure is completed with some exceptions.
If you have further questions, or would like to discuss what your options are, please call our office and we would be delighted to schedule you a consultation.