If you are currently missing a tooth or multiple teeth, you know how uncomfortable it is. There are many ways to replace teeth, from wearing a retainer with a tooth (or teeth) on it to getting a fixed bridge or dental implants, which look and feel like natural teeth.
Here’s a little bit more information on dental implants, how they work, and their benefits.
What Are Dental Implants?
Dental implants are artificial tooth roots that provide a permanent base for fixed, replacement teeth. Compared to dentures, bridges, and crowns, dental implants are a popular and effective long-term solution for people who suffer from missing teeth, failing teeth, or chronic dental problems. Because they fit, feel, and function like natural teeth, dental implants are quickly becoming the new standard in tooth replacement.
Dental implants typically have three parts:
1) The implant: A screw that serves as a root for your new teeth. This is what permanently attaches to your jaw.
2) The abutment: A permanent, but removable by your doctor, connector that supports and holds a tooth or set of teeth.
3) The crown (or prosthetic tooth): This is the part of the tooth that you can see. It’s usually made of zirconium or porcelain for durability and good looks.
WHY MIGHT YOU NEED A DENTAL IMPLANT?
When a tooth is lost or needs to be taken out, there may be a loss in the width and height of the bone at that area where the tooth no longer is. That’s because the area is no longer being stimulated by a natural tooth. At the same time, nearby teeth and opposing teeth begin to move into the space now available, which can cause food to get caught, gum disease, decay and other negative consequences – like an aged look due to cheeks and lips collapsing inwards on areas of tooth loss.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM A DENTAL IMPLANT?
If you are missing one or multiple teeth, you are a candidate for a dental implant. There are other options to replace a missing tooth, wearing a partial or complete denture with a tooth (teeth) on it or getting a dental bridge, which requires the cutting into and damaging of neighboring teeth in order to build a replacement tooth.
However, those are more short-term solutions that may also cause more negative consequences, like increased tooth decay, compared to dental implants. Dental implants, by contrast, are the most long-term solution that won’t damage adjacent teeth and help patients feel like they never lost any teeth.
HOW DO DENTAL IMPLANTS WORK?
Typically, the dental implant process has a few steps. These steps begin with your regular dentist and end with a periodontist. Periodontists are only needed to do the surgical element, while the dentist takes care of the restoration.
1. A Consultation
2. The Surgical Appointment: Preparing the Implant Site
3. Getting a Temporary Crown & Tooth Impression
4. Getting a Permanent Crown
There may be one extra step besides these 4. If a patient doesn’t have enough bone to fuse and integrate with the implant (as seen in Step 2) the patient will need to have a bone grafting procedure done. At the consultation, you will be able to find out if this step is needed. You can also learn more about this straightforward procedure on our Bone Grafting Page.
Does Insurance Cover Dental Implants?
Fortunately, most dental insurance policies do cover dental implants but this is based on the type of the policy that you have.
Many insurance companies are beginning to see the importance and long-term health benefits of dental implants, as of right now, it’s probably unlikely that your insurance company will cover the cost of dental implants. However, you can still file a claim in an attempt to get some sort of reimbursement.
ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS SAFE?
Dentists have been using dental implants for a long time, and the technology has advanced quite a bit. Implants are now very sophisticated devices placed by heavily trained professionals. As of right now, it’s one of the strongest and most reliable ways to replace missing teeth. Although rare, problems with an implant are usually minor and fixable.
But just like any surgery, there are possibly complications that could occur. Potential dental implant complications include:
- Damage to teeth, blood vessels, or nerves in the surgical area
- Implant rejection
- Sinus problems
- Material of replacement tooth and potential allergies (usually made of titanium or zirconia).