So you lost a tooth and your dentist has recommended a dental implant as a part of your treatment plan. If you’re like most dental implant candidates, you have a lot of questions and are maybe even a bit hesitant about this procedure. That is completely normal.
It is important to get the answers to your questions—no matter the procedure. You should know what to expect from the process and why your dentist is recommending a particular procedure.
Here are the top 10 questions patients like you ask about dental implants.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM DENTAL IMPLANTS
1. ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS A PERMANENT SOLUTION FOR TOOTH LOSS?
The first step to the dental implant procedure is surgically placing a metal post within the jaw where the root of the natural tooth once sat. This metal post can last a lifetime with proper care and good oral health. By replacing the root of the natural tooth, dental implants help preserve the health of your jawbone and surrounding teeth.
Implants have an impressive 98% success rate. Those that are placed toward the front of the mouth have the highest rate of success. Implants that are placed towards the back of the mouth to replace molars undergo more strain from both normal daily usage and mistreatment. This stress increases the likelihood an implant may become damaged and require repair. The good news is that it is usually the crown or abutment that is affected in these instances. Both are an easier and less invasive fix than the post residing in the jaw.
Be proactive about caring for your dental implant. Brush your teeth twice daily, floss each day, and have regular dental cleanings. Do what you can to keep gum disease at bay, which can affect the density of your jawbone and thus the stability of your implant. Don’t use your new teeth as tools and avoid chewing on hard items like candies or ice.
2. ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS SAFE?
Dental implant posts are made of a biocompatible titanium designed to safely integrate with your bodily tissues. This metal has a relatively low corrosion rate and has been successfully used for the past 50 years.
The risks of dental implants are rare but include infection, rejection, failure to adhere, bone loss around the implant, and damage to surrounding tissues. Experiencing pain, numbness, or tingling are signs of nerve damage. If an upper implant protrudes into the sinus cavity it can create sinus problems.
3. WHAT IS THE SUCCESS RATE OF A TOOTH IMPLANT?
Dental implants have a 98% success rate with an overall survival rate of 83%.
Failure of an implant is most common in patients with a history of periodontitis, more commonly known as gum disease. When you understand how gum disease affects your overall oral health this doesn’t come as a surprise.
Gum disease, despite its name, affects far more than just your gums. As the disease spreads, creating larger and larger pockets within the gums, it eventually reaches to the root of the tooth and surrounding jawbone. As your body works to fight off the infection it also breaks down nearby tissues.
As gum tissue continues to pull back and the jawbone is increasingly broken down, your teeth and implant lose the critical supportive structure keeping them securely in place.
4. DO DENTAL IMPLANTS WORK LIKE REAL TEETH? HOW STRONG ARE DENTAL IMPLANTS COMPARED TO REAL TEETH?
Dental implants very much work like real teeth and are the most tooth-like dental replacement available to candidates for the procedure.
The post of the implant acts in place of the root of a tooth. In fact, the titanium implant post makes for an even stronger replacement than the natural tooth itself. The strength of titanium and the post’s fusion to the bone creates a secure base while continuing to maintain overall oral health much as the natural tooth would.
The crown, which is placed over the abutment connected to the post, holds space, stabilizing surrounding teeth, while also fully restoring dental function to bite, chew, and talk.
5. WHAT DO DENTAL IMPLANTS LOOK LIKE? DO THEY FEEL LIKE REAL TEETH?
Dental implants are composed of three pieces: the post, abutment, and crown.
The post looks similar to a screw and is surgically placed in the jawbone where the root of the tooth once resided.
The abutment sits above the gum line and is screwed into the post. What your abutment will look like depends on how your dentist plans to secure your crown. This is because the abutment acts as the anchor for the final piece—the porcelain crown.
The dental crown is what makes your new restoration a natural looking part of your smile. It is carefully and artistically designed to look and feel like a natural tooth. The final step in the implant procedure, the crown is securely placed over the abutment.
6. HOW DO DENTAL IMPLANTS WORK?
The post is surgically placed within the jawbone. It takes on the role of the root of a tooth, acting as a stable base for your implant and stimulating the jawbone to maintain density. This helps to ensure the health and stability of both your implant and surrounding teeth.
The abutment sits on top of the gums and is screwed into the dental post. It acts as the anchor for the dental crown or bridge to securely sit on.
After the abutment is placed, your dentist will take impressions of your new bite. Your impression gives precise measurements to use when fabricating your dental crown. Fabrication can either be done in the office with CEREC technology or at a lab.
When your crown is ready for placement, your dentist will check the fit and shape of your new tooth within your bite. Small alterations may be made to create a virtually perfect final fit.
7. HOW PAINFUL IS THE DENTAL IMPLANT PROCEDURE?
Dental implant patients report experiencing minimal to no pain from the procedure. Many are even surprised and comment that they were far more comfortable throughout the procedure than they had expected.
Either local anesthesia or oral sedation will be used during the procedure itself to help eliminate discomfort. As is typical of surgery, you will experience some discomfort afterwards, though symptoms can be eased with medication.
8. WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN DENTAL IMPLANTS AND DENTURES?
Dental implants are surgically placed in the jaw, taking on the role of the root of the tooth. The post of the implant continues to stimulate the jawbone cells helping to maintain its density and strength.
Dentures, on the other hand, are a dental prosthetic that is adhered to the gums each day and removed to be cleaned at night. Since they only sit over the gums, they are not able to stimulate the jawbone in the way natural teeth or implants can. This results in a gradual loss in jawbone density over the years.
9. HOW LONG DOES THE DENTAL IMPLANT PROCESS TAKE?
The length of your dental implant procedure will depend on several factors, but you can expect to wait a minimum of six months until it is complete.
Some patients may require a bone graft to strengthen the jaw before the implant process can begin. The healing process for a bone graft can take anywhere from four to 12 months before the graft can support an implant.
HERE ARE THE TWO MAIN PHASES OF THE DENTAL IMPLANT PROCESS.
- The first phase involves surgically placing the post of the implant within the jawbone. This surgical procedure can take one to two hours. Implants placed in the lower jaw typically take four to five months to heal while those in the upper jaw take six to seven.
- Once healed, you can come in for the second phase—placing the abutment. This procedure is relatively quick, requiring just a small incision to access the post below for the abutment to then be screwed into. Healing takes about two weeks.
10. HOW MUCH DO DENTAL IMPLANTS COST?
Dental implants typically start at $1,000 a tooth with prices ranging up to $3,000. However, it is important to remember that there are several steps involved in a dental implant procedure that each have their own associated costs.
The abutment and crown will add an additional $500 to $3,000. Those requiring a bone graft can expect the surgery and harvesting to run between $2,000 and $3,000. Tooth extraction costs depend on the complexity and placement of the tooth in question, ranging from $100 to $600.