Despite advances in dental care, millions of Americans struggle with lost teeth due to oral disease, tooth decay, or accidents. If you’re one of the millions missing teeth, you have two options to restore your smile – dentures and dental implants.
Many people are familiar with dentures since the removable false teeth have been a popular tooth loss solution for decades. Dental implants are gaining in popularity because they offer a more permanent solution and several additional benefits.
What are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is a replacement tooth root. It serves as an anchor for a replacement tooth, crown, or set of teeth. Dental implants are fused to the jawbone and then capped to resemble and act like your natural teeth.
What are the Benefits of Dental Implants?
Dental implants are a permanent solution to missing teeth and an excellent option for restoring your smile. There are several benefits of dental implants as replacements for broken, chipped, or missing teeth. Some of those benefits include:
- They look and feel like your natural teeth.
- Dental implants are more comfortable than other options because they become a part of you.
- Eating and speaking are easier with dental implants than with the alternatives because they can’t slip and there are no limitations to the foods you can eat.
- Dental implants are more durable and convenient than other options.
Dental Implants vs. Dentures
If you are seriously considering your options, you probably want to know the difference between dentures and implants. The simplest answer is that dentures are removable and dental implants are not.
Dentures are removable for easy cleaning, and they are less expensive than implants. You also don’t need surgery for dentures. However, while they look like your natural teeth, they never feel quite the same. It also takes some time to get used to dentures, especially with eating and speaking.
Aside from looking and feeling more natural, dental implants stimulate bone growth to preserve your facial structure. You brush and floss them like natural teeth. However, dental implants are more expensive than dentures and require one or two invasive surgeries.
Of course, due to modern technology there are plenty of options in between, including hybrid dentures and partial fixed dentures. It’s important to discuss your options with your dentist. Only you and your dental team can make the decision that’s best for your lifestyle.
Who Can Benefit from Dental Implants?
If you are missing one or more teeth, implants can restore your smile by matching your natural teeth with replacements made of titanium and ceramic materials. They offer a more permanent solution than dentures.
Good oral health is ideal for dental implants to set and heal properly in the mouth. It is most important to have adequate bone so that the base of the implant can anchor firmly into the jaw bone. Moreover, having healthy gum tissue that is free of periodontal disease is important since the implants connect directly into the jaw bone and tissue.
- If you’re missing one tooth the base of the dental implant is inserted into the jaw bone and a crown made to match your natural teeth is fastened into place.
- If you’re missing more than one tooth, multiple implants are supported by bridgework for as few as three units.
Several factors can influence whether or not a person is a candidate for implants, including severe gum disease, smoking, ability to regrow jaw bone, certain illnesses, metabolic health and certain medications. Your dentist will assess your oral health and work with you to determine the best course of treatment.
Types of Dental Implants
There are different options for dental implants depending on the number of teeth that are missing and your oral health. Your dentist can help you decide which option is best for you, but it’s a good idea to understand the differences beforehand.
- Endosteal implants are the most common. They are a two-part process where metal implants are surgically inserted into the jawbone. Once the tissue around the implant heals, an artificial tooth or teeth is attached to the base.
- Subperiosteal implants involve a metal frame placed under the gums but above the jawbone. The posts protrude from the gums providing a mount for the implants. This type of implant is most commonly used in patients who have a shallow jawbone.
Additionally, there is another choice that combines the concept of dental implants with dentures for a more stable fit. Implant-retained dentures, or implant-supported dentures involve thin metal attachments that are connected to your jawbone. They can either be bar-retained or ball-retained, but both involve the dentures attaching to the implants.
What is the Procedure for Dental Implants?
Before deciding to pursue dental implants, it helps to understand the process. It takes time to complete each step because of the healing involved. The course of treatment will vary from person to person, but this is a general idea of what to expect.
1. Initial Consultation
The process begins with a dental appointment. Your dentist will assess your oral health and discuss your options. Expect your dentist to conduct a thorough exam, including x-rays and creating impressions of your teeth and gums.
Of note, if you have a thinner jaw bone, your course of treatment may involve an extra step. Patients with thin jaw bones may need bone grafting to rebuild the jaw to make it strong enough to hold an implant.
2. First Appointment – The Dental Implant
The first appointment involves a surgical incision in the jaw to place the dental implant. Your dentist will stitch up the incisions so that the implant can integrate with your jaw bone. It can take several weeks to heal enough for the next step.
3. Follow-Up Appointment – Prepare the Implant
Once the initial incisions heal completely, your dentist will make a second incision to expose the implant and prepare the gum tissue to heal around the area. A temporary healing cap is placed on the implant so that the gum tissue will heal around the area.
4. Final Appointment – Secure the Cap or Crown
Finally, after the second incision heals, you will visit your dentist for the permanent cap or crown. Your dentist removes the temporary cap and places the new permanent one.
How to Care for Your New Dental Implants
Dental implants are designed to look, feel, and function just like your natural teeth. This means you’ll have to follow a good oral care routine and see your dentist twice a year for check-ups and professional cleanings. If you have pain or infection around your implant, contact your dentist immediately.
There are possible complications that can occur on occasion with dental implants. Implants can fail if an infection develops, if there is not enough bone in the jaw, if the bite of the jaw is misaligned, or due to extended pressure on the implant from activities like tooth grinding (bruxism) or clenching.
What is the Average Cost of Dental Implants?
How much do fake teeth cost? We understand that most people have to consider the cost at some point, and dental implants cost more than dentures and other restorative dental procedures. However, they also provide a more permanent solution.
On average, dental implants can cost up to several thousand dollars per tooth. There are differences based on a patient’s oral health and the area of the country where they live, but you can expect to pay between $3000 and $4500 dollars for one dental implant.
In many cases, insurance covers expenses, especially when tooth extractions are required. At Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics, we offer flexible financing and payment plans. You can also join our Dental Savings Plan for additional savings on procedures, including dental implants.
Dental Implant FAQs
No, we aren’t done yet. We know there are still some lingering questions about dental implants that we haven’t quite answered yet. Some of these FAQs may answer your burning questions.
Do You “Go Under” When You Get Dental Implants?
Since it is a surgical procedure, dental implants require anesthesia. The type of anesthesia is up to your dental team, but the goal is to help you relax and be as comfortable as possible during the procedure.
How Long Do Dental Implants Last?
The life of your dental implants depend heavily on how you care for them. Remember, they look and function much like real teeth, so you need to care for them as you would your real teeth. With proper care, dental implants can last for more than 25 years.
Are There Foods and Drinks to Avoid with Dental Implants?
During your healing process, you probably need to stick with soft foods for the first ten days to two weeks after each procedure. Once you’re all healed up, your dental implant should function like any other tooth. Keep in mind that some foods will stain your implant just like your natural teeth.
Still have questions? Feel free to reach out to our knowledgeable team at any of the Jefferson Dental & Orthodontics offices. We are here to help you get the smile you desire!