Dental implants are made from surgical-grade titanium and serve as artificial tooth roots for crowns. In many cases, implants offer a permanent solution for one or more missing or damaged teeth.
How Dental Implants Work
Implants are made of titanium, an extra-strong metal that’s able to fuse with bone to provide a firm foundation for a crown. This fascinating process is called osseointegration and results in a much more natural tooth replacement than options like dentures.
The dental implant itself is inserted into the bone. A small component called an abutment sits on top of the implant. The crown attaches to the abutment and is the only piece that’s visible.
Benefits of Dental Implants
There are many reasons people choose to get dental implants, including:
Longevity. Most dental implants last a lifetime and don’t need to be replaced.
Preservation. You don’t need to file down surrounding teeth to get dental implants installed. Likewise, no bone mass is lost.
Convenience. Since the implant is permanent, caring for your crown is much the same as keeping real teeth clean.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
The average cost of a dental implant is usually between $3,600 and $3,800 for a single tooth. The final price you pay is influenced by several factors, including the materials used, the cost of the abutment and crown, your surgeon’s own rates, the complexity of the procedure, and your dental insurance coverage. Your cost will increase if you need more than one implant.
Getting Dental Implants Installed
Dental implants and crowns are installed over the course of multiple visits. A typical treatment plan includes:
- Initial Consultation: A specially trained dentist or oral surgeon first needs to determine if you’re a candidate for implants. Among other things, she’ll take X-rays of your mouth to get a clear view of your teeth and jaw. She’ll also make a mold of your teeth.
- Installing the Implant: After injecting you with local anesthetic, the surgeon will do a procedure called an osteotomy, which removes bone in your jaw in order to create a space for the implant. The implant is then inserted. A temporary crown is usually attached so you have full function of the tooth. You’ll come back for your next appointment after the bone has fused with the titanium implant, which can take up to 8 months.
- Adding the Abutment: The abutment is attached to the implant in preparation for the addition of the crown.
- Permanent Crowd Added: The installation of your permanent crown is the final step in the process.
Your dentist may want to see you after a certain amount of time to ensure the implant and crown are functioning properly. At this point the implant should be working perfectly alongside your natural teeth.
Do Dental Implants Hurt?
You’ll receive local anesthetic during the procedure but will feel discomfort afterwards. This should dissipate as your jaw and gums heal until you no longer notice that you have an implant.
Dental Implants vs. a Supported Bridge
While a tooth-supported bridge is a reasonable choice, it does have some significant disadvantages compared to a dental implant. For example, with a three-unit bridge the dentist must grind off the enamel of the two adjacent teeth in order to cement the bridge in place. This process can lead to decay of those teeth.
In addition, human bone needs force applied against it in order to stay healthy and in place. With a three-unit bridge the missing tooth is replaced with a “floating” tooth suspended between two crowns. This is called a Pontic. Because the Pontic does not apply force on the bone, the bone melts away over time. This can lead to destabilization of the adjacent teeth, hygiene issues, and cosmetic challenges.
In contrast, an implant recreates the natural anatomy and applies force to the bone. This keeps the bone healthy and in place. It also allows the dentist to leave the adjacent teeth alone.
Lastly, research indicates that most tooth-supported bridges fail within fifteen years—sometimes much sooner. Dental implants should last a lifetime. When you consider the “lifetime value,” lack of bone loss, cosmetic look, and not having to grind down healthy adjacent teeth, the choice most people make is to get the dental implant.
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