Missing, misshapen, or severely damaged teeth can be a source of frustration for many people. Not only can gaps in your smile affect the way you look and feel, they can also have an impact on your overall oral health.
While there are several options for dealing with missing or problem teeth, one that has become increasingly popular is the dental implant. Unlike dentures, a dental implant is a permanent solution for tooth replacement. While the process can be more involved than for standard dentures, it offers several benefits to dental patients.
What are Dental Implants?
As its name suggests, a dental implant is an appliance that is attached to your jaw, under the gum line. The device eventually fuses to your jaw allowing a dental professional to attach a metal post that acts as a “root” for an artificial tooth or a bridge of artificial teeth. Dental implants have become a commonplace alternative to standard dentures.
Why Opt for Implants Over Regular Dentures?
People opt for implants over regular dentures for both cosmetic and functionality reasons. Many people prefer the look of implants and appreciate being able to go about their day without having to worry about inserting, removing, or cleaning their dentures.
Another reason why many patients choose implants is that they’d like to be able to enjoy a wide range of foods. Traditional dentures can make it difficult to eat some food, particularly those that are hard or sticky. Implants behave like natural teeth, making eating comfortable and enjoyable again.
There is also the convenience of caring for your implant or implants. Unlike dentures that may require special cleaning and care, regular brushing and flossing are all that is needed to clean implants. Not only does this save you time, but it is also a more pleasant way of caring for your teeth.
Other reasons to opt for implants include not worrying about dentures slipping while speaking, as well as the protection to your jawbone that implants provide. If you have gaps in your teeth, neighboring teeth may try to shift into those spaces. An implant prevents this from happening.
What are the Different Types of Dental Implants Materials?
The dental implant itself is usually made of titanium. Titanium is the standard material for implants and has been used for several decades with good results. The abutment (or post) that holds the new tooth in place is typically made out of titanium as well. However, some dentists use ceramic abutments as an alternative.
The new tooth (also known as a crown) can be made of one of several different materials. Crowns at the front of the mouth are often made from ceramic or porcelain, as these are the most natural looking and can be tinted to match the rest of your teeth. In some cases, a dentist may recommend using metal crowns for back molars that aren’t easily seen. Metals are typically tougher than ceramics or porcelain and may be a good choice for those who are at risk of damaging their implants.
How Long Does a Dental Implant Procedure Take?
Getting a dental implant or implants is a multi-step process that can take several months. Once you and your dental professional have established that you are a good candidate for the procedure, you will be scheduled for having an implant inserted. This may also involve an extraction of the damaged tooth that will be replaced.
Once the implant is in place, your jaw and surrounding tissues will need some time to heal. This can take anywhere from 6 to 12 weeks. At this time, your dentist, oral surgeon, or periodontitis will check the site to make sure it is healed properly and attach your new tooth.
What do I Need to Know About Dental Implant Surgery Recovery?
The dental implant procedure is typically done under local anesthetic. After the procedure, you may need to take an over-the-counter painkiller to help with any discomfort. Your dental professional will provide you with instructions for at-home aftercare, including when you should seek advice due to bleeding, uncontrolled pain, or signs of infection.
What Kind of Aftercare is Required?
After you get your implants, you’ll need to care for them as you would your natural teeth. This includes twice-daily brushing, flossing, and regular trips to the dentist for a cleaning and examination. Recent studies have shown that smoking can cause problems with dental implants, so if you are a smoker, quit before you get your implants.
Can Implants be Whitened?
No, they can’t. During the dental implant process, your dentist will order artificial teeth that are the same color as your natural teeth, to ensure uniformity. If you are unhappy with the color of your teeth right now, talk to your dentist about undergoing tooth whitening now so that your smile will look the way you want it to after getting implants.
How Long do Dental Implants Last?
With proper care and regular dental checkups, a dental implant can last for the rest of your life: You won’t ever have to replace it. Your crowns can last anywhere from 10-15 years, depending on the quality of your oral hygiene regimen.
What is the Average Dental Implant Cost?
The cost of a single tooth dental implant ranges from $1,500 to $6,000 if the patient does not have dental insurance. As you can see, prices vary widely, as will coverage offered by dental insurance and discount program providers.
If you are considering dental implants as an alternative to traditional dentures, make an appointment at your neighborhood Gentle Dental office today. Our dentists can perform an examination and let you know about your options. If you are concerned about costs, our professional office staff can help you maximize your insurance coverage and let you know about other options, including financing.