All the Questions You Want to Ask about Dental Implants
Your doctor suggested a dental implant to replace a tooth. You immediately have many questions about dental implants including the process, total cost, and what to expect from the surgery. You can always ask your dentist these questions, but you may not think of important questions until you have already left the office. To ensure all your questions are answered before you get a dental implant, read our comprehensive list of the common questions (and the complete answers) prior to scheduling your surgery.
What Exactly Is a Dental Implant?
A dental implant is a threaded titanium screw that is strong enough for a post to be placed inside it. Once the screw and post are placed, the dentist finishes the tooth with a cap or crown. Many people incorrectly believe that a dental implant makes up the entire replacement tooth; in fact, the implant replaces the root only. The dentist places the crown or cap on top of the replacement root.
Why Do People Get Dental Implants?
If a patient is missing a tooth or a series of teeth, a dental implant may be suggested. Missing teeth can cause a number of problems, including difficulties chewing or eating.
Once these patients get dental implants, they no longer have to struggle with gaps caused by missing teeth. These people feel more confident in their smile and can attend social functions without fear of uncomfortable situations. Dental implants give patients a beautiful smile, more confidence, and the ability to resume eating solid foods without worry.
Does the Body Ever Reject an Implant?
Very rarely does a person’s body reject a dental implant. The jawbone readily accepts the implant, and the few rejections that do occur are caused by rare allergies to the titanium alloy that makes up the implant. Another reason for implant failure comes from the patient’s care after surgery. Without great oral hygiene, regular teeth fail and eventually fall out. A dental implant is no different. Taking care of your teeth, even the implants, prevents gum decay and structure failure in the long run.
Are Dental Implants Noticeable?
No one, not even you, will be able to tell you have a dental implant. Implants are made to feel completely natural in the mouth. The dentist matches the color and shape of your other teeth to the implant. The only way to discover a dental implant involves a radiograph to show the metal that replaced the root of the tooth.
How Long Will Dental Implants Last?
Dental implants last upwards of forty years if taken care of properly. They often last a lifetime for patients that regularly brush, floss, and follow the dental recommendations made at their check-ups. While a dentist cannot guarantee the long-term success of a dental implant, the dentist can provide guidelines and suggestions to better care for your teeth. These suggestions are based on proper hygiene procedures, your own genetic history (including diseases that run in your family), and your nutritional habits. Following the recommendations put in place by your dentist ensures the implant has the best chance to last the rest of your lifetime.
What Are the Chances of Implant Failure?
Nationally, the success rate of dental implants averages about 95%. Ask your dentist to see what the practice’s personal success rate is and how regularly it performs the procedure. You want to go with an experienced surgeon who reaches or surpasses the national average.
When Should You Get an Implant?
Make an appointment with your dentist as soon as you lose the tooth. The implant’s success depends on the strength of the jawbone. Over time, the bone wears down and decays, leaving a weaker structure on which to affix the implant. Eventually, patients may require bone grafts before they can undergo placement of a dental implant. Avoid this painful and lengthy process by consulting your dentist as soon as possible after the tooth falls out.
Does an Implant Require Special Care?
Implants require the same care that your natural teeth need. Scheduling regular checkups, proper oral hygiene, and a nutritious diet are the best ways to ensure your dental implant lasts a lifetime. Flossing every day is also critical to keep your dental implant healthy. Most tooth decay and loss occur because patients do not properly or regularly floss, resulting in gum decay and disease.
Is Dental Implant Surgery Painful?
Most patients manage pain by taking over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol and Advil for 2–5 days after the surgery. If a patient requires bone grafts or multiple dental implants, more significant post-operative discomfort may occur. Your dentist will evaluate and prescribe any pain medications deemed essential based on the extent of your surgery. Depending on how long the procedure will take, your doctor will choose what, if any, anesthesia to use.
How Long Does It Take to Put in a Dental Implant?
Placing a single implant may take as little as thirty minutes, while a complex surgery requiring multiple replacements can take more than 3–4 hours. After the implant is placed, the patient schedules a follow-up appointment several months later to allow the implant to properly heal and fuse with the jawbone. Then, the doctor will fit the cap or crown over the implant.
Does Smoking Affect Dental Implants?
Dental implants in smokers are four times as likely to fail when compared to implants in non-smokers. Smoking leads to gum recession and disease, making the implant structure weaken over time. Dentists recommend that patients with dental implants avoid smoking or chewing tobacco.
How Old Is too Old for an Implant?
Dental implants help patients at every age over adolescence. If a patient is too young, the jawbone may still be growing, causing issues over time with the fit and placement of the implant. But otherwise, a dental implant works for any patient that is healthy and willing to undergo a simple surgery.
How Long Does the Entire Process Take?
After the initial scheduling, the entire process takes around 6–8 months, unless more complex surgery is required. During the first appointment, your surgeon fuses the actual implant with the jawbone. Then, the surgeon covers the implant with gum tissue to allow the implant to heal properly. The surgeon sends you home after the surgery with a temporary bridge or denture (unless performing a bone graft or other complex surgery) so that your teeth appear cosmetically intact and you are able to chew food. Around 3–5 months later, you return to the dentist to have the post placed into the implant. Once the post is placed, the dentist fits you to get the right size cap or crown. Two to six weeks later, you come in for the final fittings. This may take just one appointment, or you may need to come in multiple times to ensure the correct size, color, and proportions of the new tooth.
Does the Surgery Require Time Off?
Most people go back to work the day after the surgery, although it depends on your individual experience and the difficulty of the surgery. Some people prefer to take a day off to completely recover and allow their mouth to rest after the procedure.
Are Dental Implants Safe?
Dental implants have been proven safe for patients whose health allows for the surgery. They provide a longer-lasting alternative to a bridge or dentures and restore comparatively more functionality to teeth. Patients that smoke or suffer from bone loss issues may not be good candidates for dental implants. Speak to your dentist to see if you qualify for surgery.
How Expensive Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants require a significant investment but hold up over time to make the process worth the price. Surgical fees often cost $2,000–5,000 for a single tooth, on top of the price of required materials the procedure. However, ignoring the need for an implant costs much more over time. A missing tooth or prolonged use of dentures leads to bone and gum decay, while also exposing more surface area of the surrounding teeth to continuous wear and tear. Eventually, issues such as nerve exposure and bone loss cause increased discomfort for the patient. The corrective procedures done at this point are exponentially more painful and expensive for a patient. Dental implants prevent bone loss and allow patients to live a much more comfortable life.
Does Insurance Pay for Implants and Surgery?
While some carriers may at least partially cover implants, many do not provide for the surgical placement of implants. Check with your insurance provider to get a detailed look at what portions, if any, are covered in the surgical placement of dental implants. If your teeth were damaged during an accident, the implants often are covered by your medical insurance and counted as jaw reconstruction surgery.
Can My Regular Dentist Perform an Implant Procedure?
The law allows dentists to perform implants, but some choose to refer patients to a more experienced oral surgeon. Talk with your dentist before scheduling the surgery to gather information on their level of training and how often they perform the surgery. Finding an experienced surgeon gives your implant the best chance at long-term success.
It is important with any surgery to do your research and ask your dentist any questions or clarifications you need prior to scheduling the appointment for surgery. Ask your dentist to walk you through the dental implant process step by step so you can be sure you fully understand what to expect. This thorough vetting prevents any surprises or unexpected problems from emerging after your dental implant surgery.