Dental implants are offered to replace single tooth or multiple teeth. They give you the opportunity to restore functions and appearance of the tooth.
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Getting dental implants is a commonly prescribed procedure to treat certain irreversible conditions. Implants are known to be expensive, and some patients may not understand why they need it. Read this article to understand what dental implants are, how they work, and how to afford the procedure:
A dental implant is a screw-like device that acts as a base for an artificial tooth. To understand this best, think of any single tooth in your mouth. It has a crown made of enamel, and interior, and a root that fixes the tooth to the jawbone. A dental implant is an artificial form of this root.
Dental implants are permanent. They don’t need to be cleaned or taken out for replacement. Once inserted, implants become very much a part of your mouth.
Dental implants are commonly prescribed these days. In the U.S. about half a million people each year get a new dental implant. The modern procedure for this was invented in the 1950s when P.I. Branemark, a Swedish orthopedic surgeon, discovered that titanium can fuse with bone. As a result, most modern dental implants are made from titanium.
A dental implant is surgically placed in your jawbone by a qualified dental surgeon. When the procedure is done, there’s a healing period to allow the bone to grow around the implant. This ensures that the dental implant bonds with your jawbone tissue.
When the implant is bonded properly, a dentist would place an abutment on top of it. Think of this as the interior of your teeth. The abutment supports the dental crown, which is an artificial product that mimics the enamel in your teeth. Now, you have a complete artificial tooth to replace a missing one.
A dental implant is a fundamental support that allows the artificial tooth to look and function just like a real tooth. You won’t feel a dental implant once it’s in your mouth, much like how you don’t feel the root of your teeth.
Patients should note that getting a dental implant requires several procedures. You may have to consult with a dentist several times first. The dentist would perform several tests and take x-rays to determine whether your jaw structure is suited for dental implants.
Dental implants are not for everyone, of course. Implants are commonly prescribed as a permanent alternative to dental bridges or dentures that treat mussing tooth gaps.
Here is a list of common reasons why dentists prescribe implants:
To treat one or multiple missing teeth
As a better alternative to dentures or bridges
As a treatment when dentures or bridges are not effective
As a treatment when dentures or bridges are not possible because of lack of teeth roots
To receive dental implants, patients must have a fully grown jawbone. Hence, this procedure is not performed on children. Dental implants are drilled into the bone. So, there should be enough bone tissue to secure the implant in place.
Dentists don’t recommend implants for patients who lack healthy oral tissue. You should also not have any health conditions that prevent bone healing, as the implant must fuse with the bone.
Patients should be willing to spend several months undergoing the treatment. After the initial phase is completed, you will need to wait for up to 6 months to allow the bone to heal. Only then would you get the rest of the artificial tooth fixed to the implant.
Here are some of the best-known advantages of dental implants:
Permanently treats missing teeth
Don’t rattle or make a noise like dentures
Don’t require removal and cleaning like bridges
Implants can improve speech
Restores smile, making you more confident
If you think implants are for you, consult a dentist first. If you have most of your teeth, except for just one or two missing, you will be eligible to receive implants.
As mentioned above, there are several steps involved in getting a dental implant surgery. It starts with an assessment from a dentist prescribing a dental implant. Then, the planning stage begins.
A general dentist may recommend an implant. But you would need to see several specialists before you are ready to receive one.
Your dentist will refer you to a maxillofacial surgeon (also sometimes an oral surgeon) first. An oral surgeon specializes in structures of the face, mouth, and jaw. The specialist will examine your jaw area to ensure that you are able to receive a dental implant.
You will also see a periodontist, a dentist that specializes in oral tissue such as bones and gums. The periodontist will examine your jawbone and evaluate the health of the gum tissue.
You will be referred to a prosthodontist, a dental specialist that designs artificial teeth and fixes them to the mouth. An oral or maxillofacial surgeon would perform the implant surgery. The prosthodontist will complete the procedure to give you artificial teeth.
In some cases, your dentist may refer you to an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) consultant to examine the interior of your mouth and make sure no underlying conditions would affect the implant procedure. You may have to see an ENT in case you are at risk for an infection, or if your sinuses are dislocated.
You will be prepped for implants first with a comprehensive dental evaluation. Your dentist or oral surgeon would take dental x-rays and 3D images of the interior of the mouth. These images are necessary to design an artificial tooth.
Your dentists and specialists would discuss your medical history with you. You must disclose your complete medical history to the doctors involved in the plant procedure. They should be informed of any medication you are on. Also, notify your dentist if you have a history of heart disease or any orthopedic implants.
Your dental specialists will draft a step-by-step treatment plan for you. The plan will vary if you need more than one implant.
You will be prescribed medications after the surgery or before, in some cases. You would need to take antibiotics to minimize the risk of infection. Your doctors will discuss anesthesia options as well. Local anesthesia is recommended, though some patients may require sedation.
Before surgery, or during, your dentist or specialist would start the procedure by removing damaged teeth, if necessary. In some cases, the specialist will determine if you require bone grafts to support the implant. If so, it would be done before the implant surgery.
When all this is done, the implant surgery will begin. It will be performed at an outpatient clinic by a specialist surgeon. You will be given a numbing agent (anesthesia) to prevent any pain.
The surgery involves the dental specialist cutting through the gum to expose the jawbone. Then the surgeon would drill into your jawbone to place the implant.
Once the implant is placed, you will have to wait for the bone to heal around the implant. This procedure is medically known as osseointegration, where the bone fuses with the metal implant. It would take several months for the fusing to complete.
Soon after the surgery is complete, you may experience pain in the implant area. It’s not abnormal to experience swelling or bruising of gums or face. There might be some bleeding from the implant too.
You will be on antibiotics following the surgery to prevent infection and aid in healing. Until the wound on the gum heals, you will only be able to eat soft foods.
Until the implant is healed, your dentist may provide temporary dentures or a bridge to cover the tooth gap. It will be only until the artificial tooth is placed.
When you are fully healed from the implant surgery, and the implant is completely fused to the bone, you need to revisit the oral surgeon. There would be another minor surgery to place the abutment.
The abutment is what connects the dental crown to the implant. The oral surgeon would have to reopen your gum to access the dental implant. Then, the abutment will be attached.
The abutment can be placed without this surgical step. But, that would cause it to jut out of the jawline, which is not aesthetically appealing.
After the abutment attachment procedure, you will have to wait for about two weeks for your gums to heal. Then, go back to the prosthodontist to get your dental crown. It will be designed to look exactly like your natural tooth.
You can choose a dental crown that is either removable or fixed. There are other combinations as well that you can decide with your doctor.
Typically, one crown is placed on an implant to support one artificial tooth. But implants can support multiple crowns if such is needed. The dental crown will be attached once your jawbone is strong enough to support it.
Medical procedures are not completely risk-free. Dental implants are no exception. Keep in mind that getting dental implants requires surgery. Naturally, therefore, there would be some risks associated. However, risks from implant surgery are rare.
Here are the biggest risks of dental implant surgery:
Implant site getting infected
Inserting the implant may damage surrounding teeth, blood vessels, or other structures
The implant placement could result in nerve damage, a persisting condition that will cause a painful, tingling sensation in your mouth, lips, or chin
Implant placements in the upper jaw could bear down on a sinus cavity, causing sinus issues
Most of the above risks are minor and can be treated if they occur. The most serious risk factor is nerve damage, which is more difficult to treat. Certain lifestyle habits, such as smoking, can put you at elevated risk for unintended effects of dental implant surgery.
You should discuss the risks with your dentist. Your dentist will be able to explain how vulnerable you are to particular risks of implant surgery.
Several factors determine how costly an implant procedure is, such as the brand of the implants and costs at the dental clinic you use. Generally speaking, getting dental implants is expensive. In addition to paying for the implants, you will have to spend a considerable amount of money on the medical procedures involved in the multistage process.
Here are some factors that drive up implant costs:
Going to a dentist in an area where dental care is generally expensive
Needing more than one dental implant
Requiring dental implants in complex areas in the jawbone
Requiring additional surgical procedures to fix the implant
Drug treatment costs
Implant procedure costs can be quite high in the U.S. In 2010, the New York Times calculated that a dental implant to replace a single tooth could cost, at the minimum, somewhere between $3,000 and $4,500. For multiple teeth, implant costs can become as high as $45,000. Not many can afford this price tag.
The long-term benefits of implants certainly justify some of the costs. Implants eliminate the issues that come with wearing dentures. With an implant, you will go from barely being able to chew soft food to chewing on hard candy. However, the price tag for these benefits may seem too high for some.
Unfortunately, there are no good low-cost medical alternatives to dental implants. If you don’t get an implant, you will have to stick with dentures or bridges.
It is possible to reduce at least some of the costs associated with getting a dental implant. Don’t expect very large reductions. However, you can reduce the costs significantly by considering the following:
The country or city you live in has a major bearing on how much you will end up paying for dental implants. For example, the cost of getting implants will be much higher in San Francisco compared to Kirksville, Missouri. The reason here is not the cost of the implants, but the cost of all the fees and charges you have to pay for clinics and doctors.
You can dramatically reduce the costs of getting an implant by moving to an area or a country where medical costs are lower in comparison. For example, medical costs are cheaper in Canada than in the U.S. However, know that such costs may not be the same for international patients.
One of the most popular destinations in Europe for receiving dental implants is Turkey. Though part of the EU, dental care costs in Turkey are overall much cheaper compared to northern EU countries like Germany or Britain. Therefore, many western Europeans can cut costs of implant procedures by traveling to Turkey.
Residents from countries like the U.S. can do the same as well. Traveling to Turkey is relatively cheap as well. The tourist-friendly country has many affordable accommodation options. The costs are so low that medical tourists can save up on implant costs even after calculating the travel costs.
Some dental clinics in Turkey offer tailored services for foreign patients. The clinics may arrange affordable travel and accommodation options so patients can keep all costs within budget.
What you should NOT do to reduce the costs of dental implants:
Do not opt for cheaper implant brands by foregoing the established, expensive brands. The high-end brands may be costly, but they offer excellent quality products. The dental implants will remain in your mouth permanently, so don’t be frugal when it comes to choosing implant brands.
Traveling to a country like Turkey is recommended to reduce the costs of dental implants. Considering all the benefits you can enjoy, you shouldn’t miss out on this opportunity.