Everything You Need to Know About Dental ImplantsBy Andie Tuggle, DMD
Dental implants are a wonderfully helpful and relatively new tool in dentistry. Reliable and solid, once placed in your mouth, a dental implant can do wonders for your smile while keeping you worry-free thanks to a low-maintenance design. Implants allow you to replace your natural teeth with as little difference as possible.
Unlike dentures, which are dental tools that have been around much longer, implants are not designed to be removed and cleaned outside the mouth. They function like regular teeth and are a great replacement for missing teeth or a single tooth.
There is some confusion about what exactly a dental implant is, however. So, let’s take a closer look at dental implants, what they are, how they work in regard to your oral health, and who may need a dental implant.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a replacement for a missing tooth or teeth. Made of high-grade and durable materials, a dental implant is anchored into the bones (jawbone or cheekbone) around your mouth or attached to the gum line. Implants act as an anchor for an artificial tooth or artificial teeth (also known as a crown).
In short, the dental implant is a manmade version of the part of your tooth or teeth that you cannot see: the root – which is the largest part of the tooth. This part of the implant — a sort of artificial tooth root — is typically made of titanium and is screwed in place so that it remains firmly in place. The dental implant is attached to the crown via a device called an abutment.
Dental implants offer an alternative to dentures and dental bridges and are made to look and function just like a regular tooth or teeth.
Types of Dental Implants
There are three different types of dental implants:
Endosteal are the most common dental implant, while zygomatic implants are relatively new. Let’s take a closer look at each type.
The word endosteal means, “in the bone.” That’s because endosteal implants are surgically placed into the jawbone.
Endosteal implants can come in the shape of screws, blades, or cylinders and can hold one or multiple dental crowns to replace one tooth or several teeth.
Instead of being placed in the bone itself, subperiosteal (which means, “on the bone”) implants are placed on top of the jaw. Dentists can do this by using metal framework posts that are inserted through the gums to hold the implant in place.
Subperiosteal implants are a great option for patients who don’t have adequate bone structure to utilize an endosteal implant.
A relatively new development in dentistry, Zygomatic implants replace teeth in the upper jaw. They are also a good option for patients who don’t have adequate bone structure to utilize an endosteal implant.
Zygomatic implants are so named because they are implanted into the zygomatic bone – the cheekbone – which is dense and serves as a great anchor point. They also allow dentists to use implants without having to utilize other, supplemental procedures.
Before Zygomatic implants, oral surgeons sometimes had to utilize procedures such as a sinus lift to ensure that a dental implant did not damage the sinuses.
The Pros & Cons of Dental Implants
As wonderful as dental implants can be, there are pros and cons of using implants, and they may not be the right choice for every patient.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Implants have much to recommend them over dentures and bridges, most notably because they feel natural and more comfortable than other types of tooth and teeth replacements.
Dental implants also have a high rate of success, improve chewing function (especially over prosthetic teeth), and do not need to be removed for daily cleaning.
Dental implants also help keep the natural teeth in your mouth safe. Dentures and bridges can lead to an increased risk of cavities in the natural teeth that touch those structures. Implants, however, decrease that risk and make the maintenance of your other teeth easier. Their design also means that the other teeth in your mouth do not absorb pressure from new structures in your mouth. This causes decreased sensitivity over dentures and bridges.
Disadvantages of Dental Implants
Because of their nature, dental implant systems require more work than dentures or bridges to install. They also require a certain amount of bone structure to install – unless you are willing to undergo other preparatory procedures. Implants can also be expensive, often more expensive than dentures or bridges.
What Is Involved in Getting a Dental Implant?
An increasingly common part of dentistry – the American Academy of Implant Dentistry estimates that almost 3 million Americans have dental implants, with 500,000 dental implant procedures occurring every year.
Dental implants must be installed by a qualified dentist or oral surgeon, and they are done in a very safe and controlled manner. However, implant placement does require several steps and some work on the patient’s part.
Understand that your implant solution is a multi-step process, And that is because it is all part of an implant system, not a singular piece.
First, you will undergo a comprehensive examination of your mouth and jawbone, including X-rays and impressions, to help determine the best type of dental implant. You will also need to make your dentist aware of all your medical conditions and medications. Dentists will also determine the best color match between your real teeth and the implant. You may also need to visit other dental specialists, such as a periodontist, depending on the condition of your dental health (such as if you have a periodontal disease). Your dentist also needs to know your anesthesia history, so that you can determine what will be the safest and most comfortable anesthesia to use during the implant.
Most patients receive conscious sedation and local anesthesia during an implant procedure. However, should you require a bone graft, you may receive general anesthesia. You may also be required to take antibiotics before, during, and just after surgery to further lower the small risks associated with dental implant surgery.
Because of the types of dental implants available, there is a chance you may require a bone graft in your jawbone – which typically is taken from another part of your jawbone. If you require a bone graft, you will undergo this procedure before your implant so that the bone has time to heal.
Before you receive your implant, your dentist may also need to remove a tooth. If so, your dentist can remove the tooth during the same visit as you receive your implant. If you already have missing teeth, your dentist will obviously skip this process.
After you receive sedation and local anesthesia, the dentist will fix the implant to your gum (subperiosteal), cheek (zygomatic), or jawline (endosteal). After you receive an in-bone implant, the bones of your face will begin to grow around the implant, and it will become part of your natural gum line. This process can take anywhere from 3 to 9 months.
Once the implant is stable, the dentist will install an implant abutment. (Remember, the abutment connects the implant to a crown.) Sometimes, dentists can place the abutment at the same time as the implant. Sometimes, it must be done in a separate procedure.
When your gums are healed and ready, the dentist will then fix an artificial tooth/crown to the abutment and implant. This new tooth will look and function like your own teeth.
You can expect some discomfort after the surgery, including bruising and swelling on your gums and face. There may even be some minor bleeding at the implant site. You should expect to consume soft foods in the days following the procedure and avoid all tobacco use, as it could increase your chance of infection.
Can Anyone Get Dental Implants?
While most patients will qualify for dental implants, not everyone may receive implant surgery. This is because of the bone and jawbone requirements to install implants.
Other considerations must also be made; patients with certain health conditions cannot receive dental implants. That includes patients who have acute illness (such as HIV/AIDS), certain metabolic diseases (such as diabetes), or bone diseases (such as osteoporosis). People undergoing chemotherapy or radiation therapy of the head and neck may also not qualify while under treatment.
Patients with some psychiatric or behavioral disorders may also not qualify. Dental professionals may also refuse to operate on patients with heavy smoking/tobacco habits.
Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Dental Implants?
The answer to this question depends on several factors, including the type of dental insurance that you have, with some insurers covering larger portions of the cost.
Our dentists can estimate the cost of dental implant surgery during an examination and help you understand the full extent of costs. We can also design a full payment structure for you to help you afford the cost of dental implant surgery.
Factors that can increase the cost of implant dental surgery:
- Types of implants
- Location of implants
- Additional preparatory procedures
How Do I Care for Dental Implants?
One of the best parts about dental implants is treating them the same as your normal teeth. You must continue to brush and floss your new teeth regularly, and visit the dentist twice yearly, but otherwise, you do not need any special or unusual care.
Call BGW About Dental Implants Today
Do you think you may be a candidate for dental implants? Are you tired of dealing with painful teeth, or dentures, or have dental problems that implants could solve? Or do you just want to ask questions? Whatever your curiosity about dental implants, the caring team at BGW is here for you.
Our dentists and staff are here for you. Our staff will fully evaluate your oral health via the most cutting-edge methods available. And whatever your age or need, we will tailor-make your oral care to suit your specific situation.