Dental Implants

Despite improvements in dental care, millions of Americans suffer tooth loss -- mostly due to tooth decay, periodontal disease, or injury. Dental implants are the best option for people with missing teeth, and are available today.

What Are Dental Implants?

Dental implants are replacement tooth roots. Implants provide a strong foundation for fixed (permanent) or removable replacement teeth that resemble your natural teeth.

What Are the Advantages of Dental Implants?

There are many advantages to dental implants, including:

  • Dental implants look and feel more natural than your own teeth. And because they are designed to fuse with bone, they become permanent.

  • If you have ill-fitting dentures, your teeth can slip around in your mouth and cause you to mumble or slur your words. Dental implants provide a more secure fit, so you can speak without worry that your teeth might slip.

  • Implants are more comfortable than removable dentures because they become part of you.

  • Eating with ease. Dentures that slide can make chewing tough. Dental implants act like your real teeth, letting you chow down on your favorite foods with comfort and without pain.

  • Dental implants can improve your self-esteem by giving you back your smile.

  • Dental implants improve oral health in a few ways. First, they don't require reducing other teeth, as a tooth-supported bridge does. This means that more of your own teeth are left intact, improving long-term oral health. Second, individual implants allow easier access between teeth, improving oral hygiene.

  • Implants are very durable and can last for many years with proper care. In some cases, implants may even last a lifetime.

  • The main advantage of dental implants over removable dentures is convenience. Removable dentures have to be taken out and put back in every day, and they can also slip out of place easily. Dental implants are permanently fixed in your mouth, so you don't have to worry about them moving around or falling out.

How Successful Are Dental Implants?

The success rates for dental implants depend on their location in the jaw, but they are generally around 98%. When given the proper care, dental implants can last a lifetime.

Can Anyone Get Dental Implants?

If you are considering dental implants, you should speak to your dentist to see if you are a good candidate. Most people who are healthy enough to have a routine dental extraction or oral surgery can get dental implants. However, some chronic disorders (such as diabetes or heart disease) and certain habits (such as heavy smoking) can make it difficult or impossible to get dental implants.

Does Insurance Cover the Cost of Dental Implants?

At this time, dental implants are not covered by dental insurance. However, depending on the insurance plan and/or the cause of tooth loss, coverage under a medical plan may be possible. For more specific information about your individual needs and how they relate to insurance, you should discuss this with your dentist and insurance provider.

What Is Involved in Getting a Dental Implant?

The first step in the dental implant process is the development of an individualized treatment plan. The plan addresses your specific needs and is prepared by a team of professionals who are specially trained and experienced in oral surgery and restorative dentistry. This team approach provides coordinated care based on the implant option that is best for you. Next, the tooth root implant, which is a small post made of titanium, is placed into the bone socket of the missing tooth. As the jawbone heals, it grows around the implanted metal post, anchoring it securely in the jaw. The healing process can take from six to 12 weeks.

After the implant has fused to the jawbone, a small connector post (called an abutment) is attached to the post to securely hold the new tooth. To make the new tooth or teeth, impressions of your teeth are made, and a model of your bite is created (which captures all of your teeth, their type, and arrangement). The new tooth or teeth are based on this model. A replacement tooth, called a crown, is then attached to the abutment. Instead of one or more individual crowns, some patients may have attachments placed on the implant that retain and support a removable denture. Your dentist also will match the color of the new teeth to your natural teeth. Because the implant is secured within the jawbone, the replacement teeth look, feel, and function just like your own natural teeth.

How Painful Are Dental Implants?

Many people who have had dental implants report that the procedure was not very painful. Local anesthesia can be used during the procedure, and most patients say that implants cause less pain than a tooth extraction. Some mild soreness after the dental implant procedure can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications like Tylenol or Motrin.

References

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