Dentists have been using dental implants to replace missing teeth for more than 40 years. They can be used as single implants to replace one tooth, or as multiple implants to replace a section of teeth, to replace all upper and lower teeth, or to help dentures stay in place. But are dental implants right for you?
Did you ever notice how many dental commercials there are on television? Almost as many as political ads! Not only are a myriad of companies searching you out, but now, more than ever, people are searching for answers about oral health and available dental options.
One of the most popular topics is dental implants. I’m often asked, “What exactly are dental implants and am I a good candidate?” So, in the spirit of America’s presidential primary season, I’ll explain who makes the best candidates for this “berning” topic. The good news is that you don’t need to have revenue of Wall Street proportions or balance the federal budget to afford dental implants. Trust me when I say dental implants can “make your mouth great again.”
Dentists have been using dental implants to replace missing teeth for more than 40 years. They can be used as single implants to replace one tooth, or as multiple implants to replace a section of teeth, to replace all upper and lower teeth, or to help dentures stay in place. Dental implants are an extremely viable, reproducible and durable replacement that best mimics natural teeth. However, dental implants are not for everyone and require a great deal of planning and time to achieve a successful result.
If you are interested in dental implants, inform your general dentist. While some general dentists perform implant surgeries, many may refer you to a specialist, such as an oral surgeon or periodontist for dental implant placement. If referred and after the healing period, your general dentist will still oversee the fabrication and maintenance of your implant restoration, also called an implant crown (see diagram).
To see if you are a good candidate for implants, your dentist will review and discuss a list of topics similar to the ones below:
Health History and Habits
Patients who have a history of bone diseases, extensive treatments with bisphosphonates, head and neck radiation, liver diseases, periodontal disease, smoking or tobacco use, and heavy “clenching and grinding” are high risk for dental implant failure.
Furthermore, individuals who are still growing (possibly into your early twenties) cannot have implants placed until growth is complete. When dental implants are surgically placed in the bone, the body’s natural healing process produces new bone that literally becomes fused to the titanium implant in a process known as osseointegration. If this healing process is inhibited by disease or habits, the implant will not become one with the bone, infection will ensue and the implant will fail. This includes ridding the mouth of all cavities and gum disease before an implant can be placed.
Quality of Bone
Not all bone is created equal. Bone density greatly differs in each individual patient, based on gender, age, history of gum disease or dental abscesses, and even location in the mouth (the lower jaw bone is much more dense than the upper jaw bone).
In general, the harder the bone and greater amount of bone, the better the primary stability of the implant and the better chance for osseointegration. A cone beam CT radiograph is a 3D imaging “x-ray” that allows your dentist or dental specialist to evaluate the quality and amount of bone available for implant placement. This imaging technology is quickly becoming the gold standard for planning dental implant placement and most likely will be requested by your dental professional.
When you lose a tooth, you will always lose a great deal of bone as the tooth socket collapses in on itself without the tooth present. If you are looking to replace a tooth that has been missing for many years or there is not enough bone to support an implant, an additional bone graft procedure may need to be completed BEFORE the implant can be surgically placed. Bone graft replacement therapy can take three months or up to one year to reach the density needed for implant placement.
The timeline involving a bone graft is usually similar to this:
- Extraction / bone graft = 3-12 month healing period
- Implant Placement = 3-6 month healing period
- Implant Crown
However, certain situations have enough bone already or allow for extraction of a tooth and immediate placement of a dental implant. If that’s the case, then you will only have the implant placement healing period prior to the crown.
In both cases, when the implant is placed, the implant crown cannot be made until the dental implant has fused to the bone completely (osseointegration). This healing period can take 3-6 months to complete, depending on the location of the implant placement. During this healing period, the top of the implant will be covered with a metal healing cap, or temporary tooth colored crown for esthetic areas, to preserve gum heights. All in all, it can take three to 18 months to receive the final implant-supported dental restoration.
Success and Maintenance
There have been more research studies than you can imagine regarding the success and survival rates of dental implants. Most of the studies report a ten year success rate of 80-90+ percent. Many failures occur early due to lack of osseointegration, bone loss from peri-implantitis (bacterial infection similar to periodontal or gum disease) and mechanical failures. Excellent daily oral hygiene and regular dental visits are paramount to retaining a successful dental implant.
It is very difficult to determine the cost of an implant because each individual case is so customized. Additional surgical procedures, such as bone graft therapies, will increase the price. However, as a general estimate, each individual dental-implant-supported restoration can cost between $2000-3000. This includes the 3-D cone beam image, dental implant, healing phase cap or temporary crown, final abutment (connection between the implant and crown), final crown, taxes, lab costs, and lab parts. Also, many dental insurance plans will cover some costs associated with dental implants.
Dental implants are a phenomenal esthetic and functional restoration that can eliminate the need for removable restorations. They require extensive planning, time and meticulous care, but successful results can be an incredible investment and as close to permanent restoration your dental professional can provide.
Do you live in the Canton area and need help with affordable dental care? Learn more about Mercy Dental Services.