What are dental implants?

Dental implants are small posts which are generally made from titanium, and they serve as a replacement for a tooth's root. On top of the titanium implant, a connector will be installed called an abutment, and this abutment connects the implant to a replacement tooth. Then a crown will be installed on the abutment and this will serve as the replacement tooth, giving a natural-looking and natural-performing substitute for any patient who has them installed. When referring to a dental implant, it is generally assumed that the implant includes the titanium post, the abutment, and the  replacement tooth itself.

Dentist explaining dental implant procedure

The truth about dental implants

The truth about dental implants is that they are approximately 98% successful, making them one of the safest and most reliable kinds of dental operations in existence. Although they can be somewhat expensive, they are extremely effective at restoring your smile and functionality for the missing tooth or teeth you have. 

How do dental implants procedures work? 

The first step in the process is for your dentist to surgically install a titanium post into your jaw bone. During the healing process, which typically lasts several months, the titanium will fuse with the jawbone and that will create the most solid anchor possible for a replacement tooth. After the titanium post has been installed, a connector known as an abutment will be placed over the top of the implant and used to connect a replacement tooth to it. The last stage in the process is actually installing a replacement tooth or a custom-made crown, providing a new tooth witch looks and performs just like the rest of your existing teeth.

Young woman going though dental implant procedure

Dental Implant procedures

There are a number of different dental implant procedures which are possible, and the one appropriate for any given patient will depend on how many teeth need to be replaced, the condition of the patient's jawbone, and several other factors which will be evaluated by the dentist.

Type of Dental Implants

If just one or two teeth are missing, it will be necessary to install one titanium post in the jawbone for each of the missing teeth. This could be a dental implant on a front tooth or a posterior tooth, but the procedure will be the same. For patients who need to replace an entire arch of upper or lower teeth, the All-on-4 dental implant would probably be the best approach. This procedure requires only four titanium posts to be installed, instead of the usual one-post-per-tooth arrangement. There are also full-mouth dental implants which can be installed to replace all the natural teeth in a patient's mouth. 

How much do dental implants cost? 

Typically, a dental implant will cost in the neighborhood of $1,000 to $3,000, and as always, the higher end of that price range will be in effect when any kind of prep work is necessary before the procedure. Paying for the abutment and the crown will bump the total cost up to between $2,000 and $6,000, so you may want to check with your insurance carrier about any help with covering the cost.

What are All-on-4 Dental Implants? 

This type of implant involves replacing an entire arch of upper or lower teeth, but with the tremendous economy of having to install just four titanium posts rather than the usual one post per tooth arrangement. Imagine the cost of paying for 15 or 16 implants rather than just four! At any rate, the cost will be somewhat expensive, so it's definitely worth your while to check with your insurance company to see if they will cover part of the cost.

How much do All-on-4 dental implants cost?

All-on-4 dental implants may cost anywhere between $12,000 and $50,000, and the actual cost will depend on a number of factors, beginning with whether or not any kind of preparatory work needs to be done. This might include jawbone buildup, extraction of teeth, or other preparatory work. It might also depend on the skill level of your dental professional and the specific area of the country where you live.

Dental implants before and after 

Before you have a dental implant installed, the tooth which is being replaced must either be extracted, or it must already have come out. That area of the mouth will need to have sufficient healthy jawbone for the titanium post to fuse with, so if buildup work is necessary, that has to be done before implant installation as well. After the post has been installed, it will require time to fuse with the jawbone, and when that process is complete, it will be possible to place the abutment over it, and then install the new crown or replacement tooth.

Dental implant financing 

Since dental implants are generally considered an elective procedure, most insurance carriers will only cover a portion of the cost, and of course this leaves the patient to cover the remainder. Some financing methods which have been used in the past include taking a home equity loan, using a healthcare installment plan, dipping into a 401(k), using a Flexible Spending Account, a bank loan or credit union loan, and using credit cards.

Are dental implants painful? 

No, they are not. Patients are generally sedated during the procedure, so all they really feel is a certain amount of pressure as the procedure is carried out. In the aftermath of the surgery, it may be necessary to take some pain medication for discomfort, as the numbing agent wears off.

How long do dental implants last? 

The dental implants themselves generally last the entire lifetime of a patient, because the titanium post has actually fused with the jawbone. However, it may be necessary at some point to replace the crown or substitute tooth, which will be subject to normal wear and tear.

Are dental implants safe? 

They are one of the safest dental procedures in existence, with upwards of a 97% success rate. It is rare for any complications to develop with a dental implant, although as with any kind of surgery, it remains a possibility.

What are Bad Dental Implants?

Generally speaking, the most common causes for any kind of dental implant failure are gum recession, infections which might occur, and any kind of nerve or tissue damage which may develop as a result of the surgery.

Does dental insurance cover implants?

At most, dental insurance will only cover a portion of the cost for a dental implant, because it is considered an elective surgery rather than a necessary one. It will be to your advantage to consult with your carrier to find out how much of the cost they will cover.

Dentist holding a full jaws for dental implants procedure

Dental Implant Procedure FAQs

Q: Who is a good candidate for dental implants?

A: Someone who is missing at least one tooth, and who has sufficient healthy jawbone where the titanium post will have to be installed. It will also be beneficial if the patient is in generally good health, so that no complications develop during surgery. 

Q: How do you care for dental implants?

A: Dental implants call for the same kind of care as your natural teeth. That includes flossing and brushing everyday, coupled with regular dental check-ups and cleanings of your teeth. The implant teeth which get installed don't really decay, but the gum tissue around them can definitely become infected or inflamed if you don't practice good hygiene on a regular basis. If you care for your dental implants conscientiously, you can pretty much count on them lasting throughout your entire lifetime. 

Q: How many teeth can be replaced by dental implants?

A: It is possible to replace a single tooth, multiple teeth, an entire upper or lower arch of teeth, or all of the teeth in your mouth. You won't necessarily need one implant for each of your missing teeth. For example, with all-on-four implants, it will only require four titanium posts to support an entire arch of replacement teeth on your upper or lower jaw. 

Q: Could my body reject a dental implant?

A: Implants typically cannot be rejected because they don't contain any living cells. The reason that titanium is used as a dental implant post is because the material is completely biocompatible, and almost no one has an allergy to titanium. However, it's possible that an implant may not integrate successfully with the jawbone if an infection should develop, or in case the patient does not observe good oral hygiene. It's also possible for osseointegration to fail if the patient begins biting on the titanium post too soon after installation. It should be remembered that all these cases are extremely rare, and in the overwhelming majority of all cases, dental implants successfully do fuse with the jawbone, so that no rejection takes place. 

Q: What are the advantages of dental implants?

A: Whenever a patient loses a single permanent tooth or multiple teeth because of gum disease or dental decay, dental implants can completely replace them, with a natural-looking and natural-performing replacement tooth. They can last a lifetime and improve your appearance and your self-confidence. You'll also be able to eat all the foods that you normally would, and have a totally active lifestyle without having to worry about your tooth issues. You'll also be glad to know that dental implants are made of titanium, which is a material that can never be affected by dental decay. 

Q: What are the disadvantages of dental implants?

A: Since dental implant surgery is actually a surgical procedure, albeit a minor one, there is always the possibility of an infection occurring, or for pain and inflammation to develop. If any of these eventualities does occur, your dental professional will be able to help you manage them as efficiently as possible. There's also a possibility that you may not have sufficient jawbone to support the titanium implant which gets installed, and in that case, bone and gum grafting procedures might be necessary. This of course will increase the cost of your dental implant, but you should keep in mind that this upfront investment will undoubtedly bring you huge dividends in the future. 

Q: Are dental implants removable or are they fixed in place?

A: Dental implants cannot be removed once they have been installed, because they fuse with the jawbone in a process called osseointegration. Once these implants have fused with your jawbone, they actually become part of it, and cannot be removed unless some type of surgery is initiated. This is by design, because when implants are allowed to fuse with your jawbone, they provide the absolute best possible anchor for a replacement tooth. This means you'll have a rock-solid anchor in place with the implants serving as the roots of your new tooth. 

Q: Can I still use dental implants if I have a partial or full set of dentures?

A: Yes, you can. In fact, implants are popularly used by patients who have either partial dentures or full dentures. Dental implants can be used to provide the kind of retention and support that a removable implant overdenture requires, and this type of arrangement will allow for the denture to snap right onto the implant. That means the denture itself will not move at all, and will not require any kind of reliance on denture glue or adhesive to keep it in place. It's also possible for use as a kind of fixed denture, where the patient's dentures get attached to implants using titanium components. In this kind of configuration, only a dentist would be able to remove the dentures from a patient's mouth. 

Q: Can dentures be converted into implants?

A: No, there is no conversion process which will work in this way. Since implants are metal screws placed into the jawbone, it would be possible to have them situated beneath the existing dentures to stabilize and support them. However, this can only be done if the current dentures are in excellent condition, and you should consult with your dental professional to determine the feasibility of such a process.

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