Dental implants are the gold standard for replacing missing teeth.
What is a dental implant? How does it work?
- Dental implants are basically “screws” made of titanium – like the surgical screws or plates that are placed in elbows, hips, and knees.
- The implant is placed directly into the jawbone using a series of very small, specially shaped dental bone drills.
- Implants are placed after a 3D bone scan is done, which allows the dentist to see the shape and thickness of the bone, in order to choose the correct size of implant. The scan will also reveal the location of nerves and blood vessels so these can be avoided and protected during the surgery.
- The implant surgery is painless, as the gum tissues are numb and the bone has no nerve endings to transmit feelings of pain.
- On average, an implant needs 4-6 months to heal before it can be restored with a crown on top. For patients needing an implant for a front tooth, an immediate temporary can often be placed, which prevents the need for a partial denture or “flipper”. Just be careful – this tooth is only for show, not for chewing!
- After the healing period, an impression is taken just as it would be for a conventional crown, and a custom-made “tooth” is attached to the implant and ready for use.
What are the downsides to implants?
- Implants cannot get cavities or tooth-aches, but they can suffer from gum disease (called peri-implantitis). If an implant becomes infected in this way, it may require further surgery to save or it may need to be removed.
- Implants have a lower success rate in patients with uncontrolled diabetes or smokers.
How much do implants cost?
- A single implant and crown cost on average $3000-5000 total. As the technology improves, the costs keep going down making implants more affordable all the time.
- Many insurance plans do not fully cover implants or the crowns, it’s important to know the details of your plan before committing to any treatment.