This week, one of our Twitter followers asked us: "I would like to replace a missing tooth with an implant? What are considerations for having this done?" Dr. James Mallory, one of our Smile Generation-approved dentists, had this to say.
"Implants are an excellent option for replacing missing teeth. As a matter of fact, it is considered the standard of care and presented as the best option. It is a fairly simple procedure. The implant is placed. It is allowed on average 6 months to heal and fuse to the bone. Then an abutment and crown are placed on top of the implant as the final restoration. Remember, there are 3 parts to the procedure - the implant, the abutment, and the crown. Because the implant takes months to heal, often only the fee for the implant is discussed because that is the treatment being performed. When it comes time to restore the implant, patients often find themselves in a frustrating situation when they learn they must pay for the abutment and final restoration. They mistakenly thought the fee for the implant included the restoration. Make sure you understand the total fee for all three of these parts.
There are risks and benefits to any treatment you choose. The most important is the risk of failure. For the most part implants are about 98% successful! They are very predictable and long lasting. But, with anything, there is a failure rate. For implants it is about 2%. Typically the failure occurs within the first year. Usually the cause of the failure is pre-mature loading of the implant, meaning you began biting on the implant too early. There is a small % of failures that occur for reasons that are unknown. But, for the most part failures are not an issue with implants.
Even though the potential failure of an implant is a “con” of treatment, I see it as a “pro”. The reason being that if the implant fails then we are dealing with only one tooth. On the other hand, if you chose a bridge and it failed then we are dealing with three or more teeth, which is a much more expensive and complicated problem to deal with.
Another “con” is the waiting period of about 6 months prior to restoration. You will either go without a tooth in the space or you will choose to wear a “flipper” or stay plate. This is a temporary removable tooth that fills the space where the implant was placed during the healing period. The “flipper” is large and made of plastic. It usually does not fit well and effects speech. Most people are dissatisfied with a “flipper” and regret paying for it. I would encourage you to go without it if possible. There are other options for replacing the missing tooth that are more comfortable, such as a Maryland bridge made with the CEREC or in rare situations using a temporary bridge if the adjacent teeth are to be restored. That is advanced and not all dentists are aware of these options.
I actually look at the waiting period as “pro”. The reason being is that you only pay for the treatment you receive. So initially you will pay for the implant placement. After the 6 month healing period you pay for the restoration phase. Therefore the total fee for the implant is spread out over time and makes it easier to handle financially.
Sometimes you may need bone grafting or sinus augmentation to assure success of the implant. This is not always discernable during initial treatment planning stage, however, it should be factored in to the total fee for treatment just in case. That way there are no surprises, and if it is needed then you were prepared for it.
Overall, I would recommend an implant if you are a candidate. Find a dentist or periodontist that has a firm understanding of the procedure for the best results."
Dr. James Mallory practices at Festival Dental Group and Orthodontics, Arrowhead Dental Group and Orthodontics,EveryKidsDentist @ Arrowhead, Canyon Modern Dentistry and Orthodontics, and EveryKidsDentist @ Canyon in Arizona. He is also a regular contributor to Arizona Health and Living Magazine