If you need to replace missing teeth, dental implants are a great way to start. Over the past several decades, implantology has revolutionized dental care. What used to be a very complex, expensive, and involved surgery is now a routine procedure that has become the standard of care.
Types of Dental Implants Available
Unlike decades ago, today’s modern dental implants are designed to mimic the function of an artificial tooth root. Their size and shape fit just into the jawbone like a real tooth would. Most implants are still made with titanium, but some are made of ceramic to mimic the color of a tooth at your gumlines.
Traditional implants are just a little larger than an anatomical tooth root. Now, there are also “mini” implant options also available. A mini implant is about 1/3 of the size of a traditional implant, which allows it to be placed in areas where space or bone is limited.
Integrity of Implants
Most dental implants are made out of titanium. This hypoallergenic metal has been used in medicine for decades, usually for procedures like joint replacement. What makes it so unique is that your body grows new bone around the titanium post, a process called “osseointegration.” This makes your implant a permanent part of your body. In fact, as many as 98% of implants will be retained for the life of the patient!
Due to the high quality of materials used, an implant can support far more weight than a healthy tooth would. As few as four implants can be used to support a full-mouth denture.
Computerized Placement Techniques
CT cone beam scanning technology can make dental implants an option for people who traditionally were not candidates for the treatment. Using 3D imaging, the dentist can virtually place the implant in an area where you have more bone. Then, a surgical guide is made from that information. This method makes surgery more streamlined, faster, and in some cases, even allows for “teeth in a day” (immediate loading of a restoration on top of it.)
Cost of Getting Implants
Compared to other types of tooth replacements (such as bridges or partials,) dental implants can seem more expensive at first. The catch is that it’s a bigger price up front, but you get more return on your investment. Because most implants will last the rest of a person’s life, they don’t have to be replaced. Only the crown or bridge over them will be changed out as it finally starts to wear down.
The other factor to consider is the type of restoration that you’re getting on your implant. For instance, it would be more affordable to get an All-on-4 denture than it would be to get individual implants and crowns for every tooth in your mouth.
Implant Restoration Choices
After getting your implant, you’ll have an abutment and a restoration affixed to it (after all, implants are just the artificial “roots.”) Here are some of the most common types of restorations that you can choose from:
- Crowns: Replace one missing tooth
- Bridges: To replace three or four missing teeth and anchored on top of at least two implants
- Dentures: Come in a variety of different designs, from snap-on overdentures to permanently fixed designs like the “hybrid” extended bridge
- Retrofitted dentures: Adding as few as two implants to your smile can help your current denture fit better
- All-on-4: A form of implant denture that is anchored on top of four or more implants
Implant therapy can take up to six months to complete. After the implant is surgically placed, the site needs to heal and new bone develop. Unless you are having same day implant restoration, you may be wearing a temporary prosthesis until the permanent one is affixed three to six months later. That means making several different appointments throughout the process.
Care and Maintenance
Although your dental implants can’t get cavities, they can still be affected by infected gums. You will need to brush and floss around your implant daily, as well as schedule cleanings with your hygienist at least every six months. Untreated “peri-implantitis” can cause your implant to fall out.
Does Dental Insurance Cover Implants?
Until recently, most dental insurance didn’t typically cover implant treatments. Being that the process involves a simple surgery, implant, abutment, and crown, it used to be something that most people considered “too expensive” to have done. Times are changing! In addition to partial reimbursement on the implant crown, many policies are now including dental implants under major restorative benefit reimbursement.
Some dentists will advertise special offers on implants, but take note of what’s included. Does it also cover the cost of the sedation, permanent crown, or your post-op visits? Instead, you may want to opt to choose the best dentist that accepts a discount dental plan, for up-front costs and expectations, with no hidden fees.