Dental implants are one of the best ways to replace missing teeth. Implants feel like your own natural teeth, so you can enjoy all the foods you love and speak more clearly. Here, you’ll find everything you need to know about dental implants to help you decide if they are the right choice for you.
What are dental implants?
What is a dental implant? Dental implants are screw-like surgical implements that replace the tooth root and attach an artificial tooth to the jaw. They are usually inserted to replace teeth that have been removed, but may also support a crown, bridge, denture, or orthodontic work.
Unlike removable dentures or dental bridges, dental implants are anchored directly into the jawbone, making them feel like your own teeth. They are the ideal way to restore your smile if you have missing teeth, unlike dental veneers, which can replace the surface of your existing teeth.
Parts of a Dental Implant
Dental implants are made up of three parts:
- The implant. The dental implant is the screw-like post that the oral surgeon places into the jaw below the gum line. It is what anchors the new teeth to the patient’s mouth.
- The crown. The crown is the false tooth (prosthesis) that replaces the missing teeth. Like a dental crown, implant crowns are typically made from porcelain or zirconia. This makes them quite durable — they often feel like natural teeth.
- The abutment. An abutment is a connector that helps attach the crown to the implant. Your oral surgeon may place a temporary healing abutment onto the implant until they place the final abutment.
Zirconia is a biocompatible ceramic material that heals very well into the bone when implanted. This process is known as osseointegration. Research shows that it can even help the jawbone heal better than titanium.
Types of Dental Implants
There are 4 basic types of dental implants:
- Standard dental implants
- Same-day dental implants (also called “teeth in an hour” or “teeth in a day”)
- All-on-4® implants
- Mini dental implants
Standard dental implants are installed in multiple steps for one or more teeth. First, the oral surgeon places the tooth root implant in the mouth. Then, the patient waits for their jaw to heal and fuse with the implant, usually 6 to 12 weeks.
Once the jaw has healed, their dentist or oral surgeon can install the final abutment and crown.
Same-day dental implants are, as the name suggests, installed on the same day they’re implanted. Same-day implants can be installed for a single tooth or multiple replacement teeth. Patients will need to follow a modified diet while the implants heal and osseointegration occurs.
All-on-4 implants are same-day, full-mouth dental implants that replace dentures, which is why they’re also called implant-supported dentures. The oral surgeon installs 4 implants to support all of the teeth on one jaw (thus All-on-4). A total of 8 implants are needed to replace the teeth on the lower and upper jaws (4 lower, 4 upper).
Mini dental implants use 2 tooth root implants that are about half the size of traditional implants. They were developed to help stabilize dentures or to serve as temporary implants. Mini implants are also used in patients with too much bone loss for a standard dental implant.
Benefits of Dental Implants
Dental implants are wonderful long-term replacements for tooth loss. Some of the significant benefits of dental implants include:
- A natural appearance: Because dental implants are attached directly into the jaw, they look just like natural teeth. Your oral surgeon can create implants that perfectly match the shape and color of your natural teeth.
- Easier eating: Unlike dentures, dental implants feel like your real teeth. You’ll be able to chew and eat just like you would with your natural teeth. You can also bite down harder with implants than dentures, making hard foods easier to eat.
- More natural speech: Traditional dentures can also change how you speak. Dental implants restore your ability to speak as you did with your natural teeth.
- A longer lifespan: In almost all cases, dental implants will last a lifetime. Once the implants are placed, they’ll stay put. Dental implants can have success rates of 96% or more, depending on how they’re installed. Unlike implants, bridges and dentures need to be replaced after a few years.
- No slippage: One of the primary complaints of dentures is that they can slip around when you’re eating or talking. Because dental implants are directly anchored to the jaw, they don’t move or slip.
- Preventing further tooth loss: Dental bridges place a lot of stress on the adjacent teeth. Over time, this can lead to damage to those adjacent teeth and even tooth loss. Because dental implants attach to the jaw, there’s no risk of tooth loss.
- Avoiding bone loss: You can lose some of the bone surrounding the root of your tooth if it’s not replaced. Dental bridges don’t put stress on the jaw like teeth do, allowing surrounding bone to weaken. Because dental implants function like tooth roots, they can help prevent bone loss in your jaw.
- Ease of care: You take care of dental implants just like you would natural teeth. You don’t need to buy any special cleansers, adhesives, or soaking cups. Dental implants can make dental care and oral hygiene much more manageable.
- Convenience: Because dental implants are so easy to care for, they’re also more convenient than dentures or bridges.
- Improved confidence: Many people feel incredibly self-conscious when missing teeth. Denture wearers can feel self-conscious, too, if they think it’s obvious they’re wearing dentures. In fact, research shows that dental implants can even reduce psychological distress.
Are dental implants worth it? Dental implants are absolutely worth getting for most patients. Biologic implants are the closest thing you can get to your own natural teeth.
What are the downsides of dental implants? There are a few disadvantages of dental implants. They are more expensive than dentures or a bridge, and your dental insurance might not cover them. It’s more invasive to get them, too.
Additionally, it can take longer to get dental implants because a lot of healing is involved. For most patients, though, the benefits far outweigh the disadvantages.
Will I need a bone graft or sinus lift?
Occasionally, your dentist (DDS) or oral surgeon will recommend additional procedures to prepare your jawbone for dental implants. The most common procedures are bone grafts and sinus lifts.
Oral surgeons use bone grafts when the existing bone in the jaw is too thin or weak to put in an implant right away. Otherwise, the implant would probably fail. Grafting is either done with your own bone, cadaver bone, or synthetic bone. You’ll have to wait for the bone graft to heal before you can have the dental implant installed.
A sinus lift, also called sinus augmentation, is similar to a bone graft. In a sinus lift, the grafting happens in the bones beneath the sinus in your upper jaw. Surgeons perform sinus lifts when a patient’s upper jawbones are too thin to support a dental implant.
Whether you need a bone graft or sinus lift depends on the structure of your jawbones. Your dentist or oral surgeon will tell you whether you need these additional procedures prior to receiving your implant.
The Dental Implant Process: Step-by-Step
There are several steps to getting a dental implant, from prior discussion to breaks for healing. Here is what to expect from a dental implant procedure:
Before your oral surgery, you will meet with your dentist or oral surgeon to discuss the procedure. You will discuss your treatment plan and the steps involved, and any necessary anesthesia.
The dental office will also take x-rays and impressions of your teeth and gums. Any necessary tooth extractions would happen at this time.
2. Bone Graft or Sinus Lift (if necessary)
If your existing jawbone cannot support a dental implant, your oral surgeon or dentist will perform a bone graft or sinus lift. Your jaw will need time to heal after this procedure, at least 6 months.
3. Implant Surgery
You can have your implant surgery once your jaw has healed from any tooth extractions or bone grafts. It may be performed under local anesthesia or under full sedation, depending on your medical needs and history.
4. Allow the Mouth to Heal
If you are not receiving same-day dental implants, you will wait several weeks for your jawbone and gum tissue to heal. This can take anywhere between 6 weeks to 6 months. If you receive same-day or All-on-4 implants, you will skip this step.
During this time, it is essential to take any antibiotics your surgeon prescribes.
5. Abutment Placement
Next, your surgeon will place the abutments. They will screw the abutment onto the tooth root implant.
6. Attach Temporary Crown
In step 8, this crown will be replaced with a more durable, permanent crown.
7. Allow Gums (Traditional Implants) or Gums and Jaw (Same-Day Implants) to Heal
You will wait for about 2 weeks for your gums to heal from the abutment placement.
8. Attach Permanent Crown
Once your gums have fully healed, your surgeon will attach a permanent crown or denture.
How long does it take to get a dental implant? The entire dental implant process can take months, depending on the health of your jaw and the type of implant.
Standard dental implants take 6 to 12 months to install, on average. Same-day implants take about 8 months from the start to the permanent crown installation.
The actual surgical procedure for standard implants usually takes 1-2 hours. Surgery can last 3 to 4 hours with larger dental implants, like the All-in-4.
Are dental implants painful?
How painful is getting a dental implant? You’ll be under local or general anesthesia for surgery, so you won’t feel a thing. If thinking about the procedure is causing emotional pain, you can take steps with your dentist to ease dental anxiety.
Once the anesthesia wears off, you will probably experience a little pain, but less pain than after a tooth extraction.
Most patients experience some discomfort for the first 10 days after the procedure. However, patients can generally manage that pain with over-the-counter medication like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Occasionally, surgeons may prescribe painkillers in addition to antibiotics.
At 2 weeks after surgery, you shouldn’t feel any pain. If you do, you should follow up with your dentist or surgeon. They will likely ask you to come into the office to ensure you don’t have an infection.
Caring for Dental Implants
You will care for your dental implants just like you cared for your natural teeth. You will need to brush and floss regularly. But, you will want to switch to a soft toothbrush and low-abrasive toothpaste. Your dentist may also recommend additional steps like using an antimicrobial mouthwash.
How much do dental implants cost?
The cost of dental implants depends on several factors, including how many replacement teeth you need and whether you need a bone graft. Pricing also varies depending on where you live, the materials used, your jaw and gum health, and your surgeon’s experience.
Single-tooth implants usually run between $3,000-$5,000 US. Full dental implants (upper and lower jaw) averages $30,000 to $80,000 US.
Are dental implants covered by insurance?
Many dental insurance policies consider dental implants to be “cosmetic” procedures, so they’re not covered. If you need dental implants because you were in an accident or have a specific medical condition, they may cover the full cost.
However, some will cover part of the cost of dental implants. Most commonly, policies will pay for part of the cost of:
- Dental exams
- Tooth extraction
- Dental implant surgery
- Permanent crowns
Consider asking your insurance for a pre-treatment estimate so that you’re not surprised when you receive your bill.
Are dental implants right for you?
Are you a good candidate for dental implants? That depends on your dental history and any problems you may have with your jawbones. Whatever your situation, if you’re missing teeth, we have a solution here at Rejuv Dentistry’s offices in East Hampton and Manhattan.
We can help you decide which implants are the best for your situation. Simply book a consultation with us, and we’ll walk you through your options.
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