Dental Implants - Costs and Information
A dental implant is a high-quality replacement option for people who have lost one or more teeth. Made of titanium and other materials, implants attach to the bone of the jaw and to the gum tissue. They provide an anchor for a set of removable or replacement teeth.
While implants are highly effective, they can be a cost-prohibitive treatment, as they usually involve a team of specialists and several months of dental work to complete the implant process.
Candidacy for Dental Implants
If you're in generally good health, you'll probably be a good candidate for dental implants. So long as you're well enough to undergo a regular oral surgery and have enough bone structure to support the implants, you should be able to have the treatment performed. However, people who have diabetes or heart disease may not be good candidates for implants. Heavy smokers and people who have had radiation therapy in the head or neck may also not be. To determine if the procedure is right for you, have a detailed conversation with your dentist about your medical history.
- Improved speech if the patient has lost teeth
- Improved appearance
- Increased ease in eating
- Long lasting
- May not have to be removed, as dentures conventionally do
Keep in mind that the implant is the base to which your artificial teeth will be attached. You have a couple options in artificial teeth, and your dentist will help you determine which is better for you.
The dentist can attach crowns that are the right size, shape and color to match with your real teeth. These are fixed in place during the procedure. The implant is considered permanent, but the crowns can be replaced as needed.
The other option is a set of dentures that attach to the post on the implant. These are similar to any other dentures but don't require creams to be attached. They can be removed and reinserted whenever you'd like.
The first step of the implant process will involve meeting individually with all of the different members of the team that will do the work. You might be able to find a specialist who performs all of the different implant stages, but this is rare. You'll likely end up working with different professionals in oral surgery and restorative work. Once you understand the length and steps of the process, it will get underway.
A surgery will take place in which the first dentist will place the implant. It will be inserted slightly above the jaw bone, and a screw will be inserted to keep gum tissue out of the implant. Your gums will then be attached over the top of the implant itself.
Then you'll have to go through a three- to six-month waiting period. The goal is for osseointegration to take place. In this process, your gum tissue actually grafts to the titanium implant. You'll be placed on a restricted diet during the healing period, to prevent irritation or accidental dislodging of the implant.
Once you've healed, the next surgeon will uncover the implant and attach a post to it. The gums will be reattached to the post, and another healing stage will take place. The post is what will connect to your replacement teeth. In some cases, this will be a two-step process, in order to attach another post to the teeth.
When the tissues have healed again, your dentist will create a set of crowns that will be attached to the post. The other option is for the dentist to have a set of dentures fashioned that can be attached or removed from the post. Either way, the process will then be complete: you will have a new set of replacement teeth.
A basic set of implants can run up to $3,000, and most insurance companies will not cover the procedure. If necessary, a specialist can perform restoration work that involves grafting bone and new gum tissue in place to support the dental implants. If this is done, the costs have been known to exceed $30,000 (and again, insurance doesn't cover this in most cases). Prices will vary based on your geographic location and the fees charged by individual dentists.
Read more about the cost of dental implants.
The main advantage of dental implants over dentures or other alternatives is their convenience. You don't have to remember to take the implants out overnight to give your gums a rest. They look and function just as your real teeth do. They should last many years, as long as you keep up with brushing and flossing and regular dental visits.
About 4 percent of all dental implants fail for some reason. The most common problem is when osseointegration fails to happen. The titanium implant is rejected by some patients, not grafting properly to the gum tissue and bone. The bad news is that there's no way to tell if this will happen until the procedure is already well underway.
Another complication occurs when a crown comes loose from the post on the implant. This is painless, but many patients have been known to swallow the artificial teeth accidentally. They often don't even realize this has happened until they notice the crowns are missing.
Once the crowns or dentures are in place, no recovery time is needed. You can resume eating a normal diet and perform normal activities as soon as the artificial teeth are in place. The main recovery time happens between the surgical procedures. It takes three to six months to heal from the original implant and additional time after the posts are installed. Some patients experience pain during this time. Over-the-counter pain medications can be used to alleviate the discomfort. If the pain persists or becomes unmanageable, talk with your dentist about alternative pain relief options.
The implant itself doesn't require any special care. It grafts to your own tissues as if it were a part of your body, and you don't have to do anything with it. The crowns or dentures, however, will need to be kept up. Regular brushing and flossing are necessary to extend the life of your artificial teeth as long as possible. Crowns or dentures can last several years before needing to be replaced, and in some cases, they've lasted for the remainder of the patients' lives.
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