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What is a dental implant?
A dental implant is a tiny titanium screw that acts as an artificial tooth root to replace a missing tooth.
The implant is then placed into the jaw bone, which over a short time bonds into the bone.
Once the implant has bonded with the bone, it is usually capped with a dental crown. Together, the implant and crown act as a stable and natural-looking replacement for a missing tooth.
Who is an ideal candidate for a dental implant?
Dental implants are ideal for patients who are missing teeth and who have otherwise healthy mouths.
Dental implants are the most invasive option for replacing missing teeth.
In addition, patients with small jawbones, or jaw bones that have deteriorated as a result of prolonged tooth loss, may need a bone graft in order to accommodate an implant. This makes an already somewhat invasive procedure even more so.
As as a result, some patients prefer removable or semi-fixed options like dentures or dental bridges.
Dental Implant FAQs
- How long do dental implants last?
With proper care and routine dental check-ups, dental implants can last a lifetime. Their longevity is also dependent on factors like proper nutrition, proper hygiene, genetics, or any disease processes that might occur.
- Do dental implants require special care?
Care for your dental implants like you would your natural teeth. Visit your dentist for regular check-ups and cleanings and maintain a proper brushing and flossing routine at home to prevent decay in the surrounding teeth and gum disease (which can negatively affect your dental implants).
- Is the dental implant process painful?
The anesthesia administered during the surgery should make the implant placement itself comfortable.
Implants do not usually result in much post-operative discomfort. Most patients can manage any pain by taking an over-the-counter pain medication for a few days after the procedure.
If you have had more extensive treatment, such as bone grafts or multiple implants, then the post-operative course may require more time and medication.
- How long does the dental implant process take?
The actual placement of the implants is generally done in the doctor’s office during one visit. After that, most implants will heal and remain covered, underneath the gums, for 3 to 6 months.
During this time, the biological bonding of the jawbone to the implant will take place. During the healing process, you may wear a modified denture, a temporary denture or a bridge.
You will need to eat soft diet for the first couple of weeks after the implant procedure.
In the second phase treatment, the top of the implants will be uncovered from under the gums and a small metal extension (called an abutment) will be attached to the implant(s). This will eventually be used to attach the crown to the implant.
In phase three, which usually starts 2-6 weeks after phase two, your new replacement teeth will be created and fitted. This will involve a series of appointments to make impressions of your teeth, and then to fit your replacement teeth during their fabrication. This process will help ensure that the size, shape, color and fit of your new teeth will blend with your unique facial characteristics and your remaining natural teeth.
The third phase is usually completed over a 4 to 8 week period. This means that total treatment time for dental implants is usually about 5-8 months in duration. If bone or gum grafts are required, it may take longer.
- Can dental implants be placed on the same day my teeth are extracted?
This depends on the amount of bone in the area, and presence or absence of an infection.
Placing the implant at the same visit is preferable, however, because it helps preserve both width and height of bone and may prevent the need for placing bone grafts when bone naturally shrinks back after teeth are extracted.
It can also save at least three months in healing time.
- Will my insurance cover dental implants?
Some carriers will pay for dental implants, some pay for a portion of the costs, and other don't pay for any part of it.
Talk to your insurance provider and your dentist to determine what part, if any, of your dental implant treatment will be covered by your insurance.