Understanding Dental Implants

Losing a tooth can be a stressful experience, affecting not only your appearance, but also your oral health. Dental implants offer a stable and lasting solution to replacing missing teeth. But what exactly are dental implants, and how do they restore the look and feel of natural teeth?

In this article, we will cover everything you wanted to know about dental implants.

What are Dental Implants?

Dental image cast model
At their core, dental implants are essentially artificial tooth roots, typically made from titanium, a material well-known for its strength and ability to integrate with bone. They are surgically placed below the gum where a tooth is missing. Unlike dentures, dental implants are anchored firmly in place, providing a foundation upon which replacement teeth, or crowns, can be securely attached. The result is a restoration that looks, feels, and functions like a natural tooth.

Dental implant components

A dental implant is comprised of three main components:

  • The Implant: A screw-like post that serves as the new root for your tooth, integrating with your jawbone in a process known as osseointegration. These are made from Titanium or Zirconia.
  • The Abutment: A connector placed on top of the dental implant to hold and support the crown.
  • The Crown: The part of the implant that resembles a tooth, custom-made to match your natural teeth and fit your mouth perfectly.

Choices when replacing a lost tooth

There are three different options for replacing your teeth:

  • Dental implants
  • Dentures
  • Bridges

Dental implants

Why choose dental implants?

Dental implants are an excellent choice for tooth replacement due to their exceptional longevity and durability, as well as their positive impact on oral health.

Implants are designed to last a lifetime. Made from titanium, they integrate with the jawbone, creating a stable and enduring foundation for replacement teeth. This integration not only ensures that implants won’t slip or shift but also makes them a robust solution capable of withstanding the daily rigors of eating and speaking.

Furthermore, dental implants play a crucial role in maintaining oral health. They stimulate and preserve the jawbone, preventing bone loss that often occurs after tooth loss. This preservation is vital, as it helps maintain the structure of the face and prevents the sunken look associated with bone shrinkage. By protecting the jawbone and supporting natural bone growth, dental implants not only restore your smile but also contribute to the overall health and longevity of your oral structure.

Am I a candidate for dental implants?

Determining if you are a suitable candidate for dental implants involves several key factors. Generally, good candidates are those with:

  • Adequate bone density in the jaw, which is essential for supporting the implant.
  • Healthy gums and overall good oral hygiene are also ideal candidates, as these conditions help in the healing process and reduce the risk of infection.

Those who may not be good candidates are patients with:

  • Uncontrolled diabetes
  • Severe osteoporosis
  • Habits like heavy smoking

as these may affect the success of the implant.

It’s also important for candidates to have realistic expectations about the procedure and the healing time involved. Your dentist (whether at Forever Dental or elsewhere) will conduct a thorough examination, including X-rays or 3D images, to assess the health of your jawbone and gums. Additionally, they will review your medical history to identify any factors that might affect the success of the implant. Ultimately, the decision to proceed with dental implants is made on an individual basis, ensuring that it is the most suitable and safe option for your dental health needs.

Dentures

What are dentures?

Dentures are removable dental appliances that serve as a replacement for missing teeth and surrounding tissues. They are crafted to closely resemble natural teeth, improving not only the aesthetics of one’s smile but also the functionality of their bite. Dentures come in two main types: complete and partial. Complete dentures are used when all teeth are missing, resting on the gums that cover the jawbones. Partial dentures, on the other hand, are suitable when some natural teeth remain. These are held in place by clasps that fit around the existing teeth, filling in the spaces created by missing teeth and preventing other teeth from changing position. While dentures are a more affordable and less invasive option compared to implants, they require proper maintenance and regular adjustments for comfort and effectiveness.

Why choose dentures over implants?

There are several reasons to choose dentures over dental implants:

  • Cost: Dentures are often more budget-friendly than implants, making them a more accessible option for many people.
  • Non-surgical treatment: They do not require surgery, which is beneficial for those who may not be candidates for surgical procedures due to medical reasons or have concerns about undergoing surgery.
  • Speed: Dentures can be fabricated more quickly than the time it takes to complete the implant process, which involves surgical placement and a healing period.
  • Health conditions: For those with significant bone loss in the jaw that cannot support implants without extensive grafting, dentures offer a practical solution without the need for additional invasive procedures.
  • Adjustability: Dentures also allow for easier adjustments or replacements as the shape of the mouth changes over time, especially in older patients.

While they may not offer the same permanence or feel as implants, dentures have improved significantly in terms of comfort and appearance, providing a functional and aesthetic solution for tooth replacement.

Bridges

What are bridges?

Bridges are fixed devices used to replace one or more missing teeth by anchoring to the adjacent natural teeth or dental implants. Essentially, a bridge fills the gap where teeth are absent. It typically consists of two or more crowns for the teeth on either side of the gap. The process of getting a bridge usually involves multiple visits to the dentist to prepare the abutment teeth and fit the bridge.

Why choose bridges over implants?

There are several reasons to choose bridges over dental implants:

  • Speed: Bridges often involve a faster and less complex process compared to dental implants, which require surgery and significant healing time.
  • Non-surgical treatment: Ideal for patients who are not suitable for surgical procedures or prefer a less invasive dental solution.
  • Cost: Generally more affordable than dental implants, making bridges a more budget-friendly choice, especially for multiple tooth replacements.
  • Suitable for Adjacent Tooth Restoration: Bridges are practical when adjacent teeth need crowns or have large fillings, as these teeth can effectively support the bridge.
  • Durable: While not preserving bone like implants, bridges still offer a long-lasting, functional, and cosmetically appealing solution.

While bridges may not offer the same bone-preserving benefits as implants, they still provide a durable, functional, and aesthetically pleasing solution for replacing missing teeth.

How much do dental implants cost?

When you are looking for prices, remember that the implant is only part of the picture. Some dentists will quote you a price for the implant, abutment, crown, and X-rays/CT scans separately. Others will quote you an “all-in” price for each tooth. Be sure you are comparing apples to apples when discussing the procedure with multiple providers!

Costs for dental implants vary widely within the United States. The costs depend on the complexity of the case, materials used, experience of the dentist and team, and underlying cost of the region (e.g. Chicago will be cheaper than New York City, for example).

According to GoodRX and Forbes Health, the all-in cost of the implant range from $2,000 up to $7,000 per tooth when looking across the United States.

This can vary widely, even by region. In Chicago, we’ve seen prices range from $2,600 to $5,500 per tooth. [2]

The price for a full arch (all of the top teeth or all of the bottom teeth) procedure can range from $13,000 to $20,000.

And the price for a full mouth procedure costs around $25,000 to $50,000.

Where can I find cheap implants near me?

When it comes to dental implants, a common question is often, “where can I find cheap implants near me?” While it’s understandable to seek affordable options, it’s crucial to remember that the lowest price might not always lead to the best outcome. Opting for the cheapest dental implants can have several downsides:

  • Quality of Materials: Cheaper implants may be made from lower quality materials, which can affect their durability and longevity.
  • Expertise of the Dental Professional: Highly skilled and experienced dentists typically charge more. Lower costs might mean the procedure is performed by less experienced professionals, potentially leading to complications, implants that don’t look great, or implants that fail and cause more issues down the road.
  • Comprehensive Care: Often, lower prices might not include all aspects of the implant procedure, such as X-rays, additional necessary treatments, or follow-up care.
  • Technology and Facilities: State-of-the-art facilities and the latest technology, which contribute significantly to the success of the implant procedure, may not be available in lower-priced options.
  • Long-Term Success: The success of dental implants relies heavily on the technique and precision of the procedure. Lower costs might compromise these, leading to additional costs and procedures in the long run.

While affordability is an important factor, it’s essential to balance cost with the quality of care and the potential long-term success of the dental implants. We encourage our patients to research thoroughly and make the most informed decision possible.

Does dental insurance cover implants?

Dental insurance coverage for implants can vary greatly depending on the specifics of the individual dental insurance plan. Some plans may offer full coverage, partial coverage, or no coverage at all for dental implants.

Here are some considerations to keep in mind regarding dental insurance and implants:

  • Type of Insurance Plan: Some insurance plans categorize dental implants as a cosmetic procedure, which is often not covered. However, other plans recognize implants as a necessary procedure for oral health.
  • Coverage Limits: Even if dental implants are covered, there may be annual limits on how much the insurance will pay. Implants can be expensive, and if the cost exceeds annual limits, you may have to pay the difference out-of-pocket.
  • Deductibles and Co-Pays: As with most medical and dental procedures, you may be required to pay a deductible before your insurance begins to pay. Additionally, you might have a co-pay or a percentage of the cost that you’re responsible for.
  • Alternative Benefits: In some cases, insurance companies may provide an “alternative benefit” for a less expensive procedure. For instance, they may cover the cost of a bridge or dentures instead of an implant.
  • Medical Insurance: In rare cases, if the dental implants are necessary due to an accident or as part of a medical procedure, your medical insurance might cover a portion of the costs.
  • Pre-Treatment Estimates: It’s often possible to submit a pre-treatment estimate to your insurance company. This is a detailed plan from your dentist outlining the proposed work. The insurance company can then specify what they will cover and at what rate before you commit to the procedure.

To determine if your dental insurance covers implants, you should review your policy details or contact your insurance provider. Experienced dental offices like Forever Dental will be able to assist you in identifying what is covered, and provide a financial plan to help you pay for the treatment you are looking for.

The process of getting a dental implant

Picking a practitioner

The first step in your journey to getting a dental implant is choosing the right dental professional. This decision is critical, as it significantly influences the success of the procedure. Here are key factors to consider:

  • Location: Convenience matters. If you won’t be able to easily attend the numerous appointments you are going to have, you should find another dentist. If you are in the Chicago area, in Brighton Park near Archer and Kedzie, or Belmont Cragin near Belmont and Central, we at Forever Dental will have you covered.
  • Experience and Expertise: Look for a practitioner with a proven track record in implant dentistry. Ask about their success rates, how many implant procedures they’ve performed, and their experience with cases similar to yours.
  • Front vs. Side vs. Back Teeth: The location of the implant can affect the complexity of the procedure. Front teeth, being more visible, require a practitioner skilled in aesthetics, while back teeth implants need someone adept in functional aspects.
  • Health Conditions: If you have specific health conditions (like diabetes, osteoporosis, or gum disease), find a dentist experienced in dealing with similar cases. They can better anticipate and manage potential complications.
  • Common Questions to Ask: Prepare a list of questions for your potential dentist. These can include queries about their qualifications, the types of implants they use, the estimated timeline for the procedure, aftercare services, and any guarantees they offer on their work.
  • Consultation and Comfort Level: Finally, the initial consultation is crucial. Assess how comfortable you feel with the practitioner, their approach to your care, and how thoroughly they explain the procedure and address your concerns.

Remember, the right practitioner is not just about skill and experience; it’s also about finding someone who understands your needs and with whom you feel comfortable discussing your dental health.

Plan

The planning phase involves planning for your implant. It involves the following:

  • Comprehensive Dental Examination: The dentist will perform a thorough examination of your oral cavity, including the teeth, gums, and jawbone. This is to assess the overall health and to identify any issues that might need addressing before implant placement.
  • A Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scanner

    A Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scanner. (Source: Wikipedia, by Ptrump16)

    CBCT Scan: A Cone Beam Computed Tomography (CBCT) scan is a critical component of this phase. This imaging technique provides a 3D view of your teeth, jawbone, and surrounding tissues. The CBCT scan is far more detailed than a regular dental X-ray and is essential for precise implant planning. It helps the dentist in evaluating the bone quality and density, and in determining the optimal placement for the implant.

  • Creating a Treatment Plan: Based on the findings from the examination and the CBCT scan, the dentist will develop a personalized treatment plan. This plan will outline the specific steps of the implant procedure, the timeline, and any preparatory procedures required (such as bone grafting, if necessary).
  • Arranging Payment: This may involve discussing financing options, payment plans, insurance coverage, and any available discounts with the financial coordinator.

Placement

The placement appointment is usually 1-3 hours long. During your placement appointment, here is what typically happens:

  • Preparation and Anesthesia: On the day of the surgery, the area around the implant site is prepared and sterilized. Local anesthesia is administered to ensure that you are comfortable and pain-free throughout the procedure.
  • Surgical Procedure: The dentist makes a small incision in the gum tissue to expose the jawbone. A specialized drill is then used to create a space in the bone where the implant will be placed. The dental implant, a small titanium post, is carefully and precisely inserted into the jawbone.
  • Closing the Site: Once the implant is in place, the gum tissue is closed over or around the implant. In some cases, a temporary abutment may be placed on top of the implant.

Healing

After the placement, a critical period of healing begins. This phase, known as osseointegration, involves the implant fusing with the jawbone, creating a strong foundation for the replacement tooth. This process can take 3-6 months, depending on individual healing factors and the quality of the bone.

Abutment and Crown

This is the final phase of the process. This appointment is usually 2-4 hours long. In this appointment, here is what happens:

  • Abutment Attachment: The abutment is a small connector piece that is placed on top of the dental implant. This procedure typically requires a minor surgery where the gum is reopened to expose the implant, the abutment is attached, and the gum tissue is then closed around, but not over, the abutment. The abutment serves as the base for the crown.
  • Healing and Gum Shaping: After the abutment is placed, a short healing period follows. During this time, the gum heals around the abutment, forming a natural-looking line between the gum and the artificial tooth.
  • Dental Crown Placement: The final step involves placing the dental crown, which is the visible part of the tooth. Impressions of your mouth and the implant are taken to create a custom crown that matches the color, shape, and size of your natural teeth. Once ready, the crown is securely attached to the abutment.
  • Adjustments for Comfort and Fit: After the crown placement, your dentist will make any necessary adjustments to ensure a comfortable bite and a natural appearance.

A Brief History of Dental Implants

The concept of dental implants is not new; it dates back thousands of years when ancient civilizations used various materials to replace missing teeth. However, the modern era of dental implants began in the 1950s with the discovery of osseointegration by Swedish orthopedic surgeon Per-Ingvar Brånemark. This breakthrough paved the way for the development of dental implants as we know them today – a safe, reliable, and long-term solution for tooth loss.

FAQ

How long do implants last?

With good oral hygiene, regular checkups, and good genetic factors (limited teeth grinding and limited bone degeneration), implants can last a long time. This is generally broken down into two areas:

  • Implant Post: The titanium or zirconia post implanted into the jaw can last 20 years to a lifetime with proper care. The biocompatibility of these materials allows them to fuse with bone and function effectively for many years.
  • Abutment and Crown: The abutment and crown (the visible part of the implant) may require replacement more frequently, typically every 10 to 15 years, due to wear and tear, although they can last longer with good care.

How painful is the procedure?

The dental implant procedure is generally performed under local anesthesia, which means you shouldn’t feel any pain during the surgery itself. Most patients report that the discomfort is less than they expected and is comparable to having a tooth extracted. After the anesthesia wears off, some discomfort is normal and can include swelling, bruising, and mild pain at the implant site. However, this is typically manageable with over-the-counter pain relievers and subsides within a few days. Your dentist may also prescribe medication to help manage any post-operative discomfort. Overall, while there may be some discomfort associated with getting a dental implant, it’s generally not considered a painful procedure.

Are there additional resources I can watch to learn more?

Yes! Please review this video for additional information about dental implants.