What Are Dental Implants and Do I Need Them?
Missing teeth, diseased or damaged teeth, chronic dental problems...all of these are reasons why you might someday find yourself asking: “are dental implants right for me?”
But what exactly are dental implants, how can they benefit your dental health, and what should you expect during your dental implant procedure? Today, we’ll be uncovering the answers to all these questions and more.
Let’s get started!
Our Harrisonburg dental team wants to equip you with the knowledge to make the best decisions for your dental health.
What Are Dental Implants?
At its simplest, a dental implant is a foundation upon which a single missing tooth or multiple missing teeth can be built. Dental implants are versatile - they can support many different tooth replacement options, from crowns and bridge to dentures. We’ll focus today on implants to replace a single missing tooth, which is the most common use for dental implants.
"Dental implants look, feel, and function just like your real teeth."
Beyond restoring your smile, dental implants help maintain jaw bone once teeth are lost. Once a tooth is removed, the bone that surrounds and supports the tooth naturally starts to diminish. If a dental implant is placed, however, that bone is maintained as it supports the implant as it supported the tooth. That means the shape of your face is also maintained - multiple missing teeth can lead to prematurely aged, sunken facial appearance over time.
If you’ve lost a tooth (or several teeth) due to an injury, disease, or simply from age, dental implants are the go-to standard of care for repairing your smile and dental health to its ideal state.
How Do Dental Implants Work?
Dental implants that replace a single missing tooth have three main parts:
- The Implant - This is essentially a titanium screw that replaces the root of the missing tooth and which is fitted into the jaw bone. The implant gains stability from your bone, which grows into the threads of the screw-like implant.
- The Abutment - The abutment is the connection between the implant itself and crown, or the prosthetic tooth.
- The Crown - The crown is the part of the implant that looks like a tooth and that you can see in your mouth.
If your dentist has identified you as a good candidate for a dental implant, the procedure will follow this process:
- Often, digital imaging is performed to plan and guide the surgical placement of the implant.
- The implant is placed. This is a surgical procedure performed either by a general dentist or a surgical specialist. In our office, we work with surgical specialists for state-of-the-art care.
- You’ll wait 3-6 months for your own healthy bone to grow around the implant (a process called osseointegration) and provide the necessary support to the implant.
- Your dentist will take impression or digital images for the abutment and crown. In some cases this can be done in one visit, thanks to digital technology like CEREC.
Are Dental Implants Safe?
A dental implant procedure, when performed by a trained and experienced dentist, is one of the safest procedures in dentistry. Dental implants have been successfully used for more than 3 decades on patients of all ages (generally nine years and older) and will last a lifetime with proper care.
Like any surgery, there are always some health risks to be aware of, such as infection, nerve damage, and sinus problems. By working with an experienced dentist, you lessen the risk of developing any problems.
Does Getting a Dental Implant Hurt?
Dental implants are performed under local anesthetic so you won’t feel any pain during the procedure. If you suffer from dental anxiety, you can talk to your dentist about sedation options, as well.
You may have some post-surgery discomfort, but most patients describe this feeling as similar to after a tooth extraction. Your dentist will give you special instructions after the procedure for how to care for the healing implant and how to manage pain.
How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
Of course, a common concern patients have about dental implants is how much the procedure will cost and if it is covered by insurance.
Your specific situation (number of implants needed, current health of your teeth and jaw, etc.) will affect the cost, so it’s best to discuss exact pricing with your dentist. In fact, because dental implants are customized for your mouth, beware of dentists who gives you a firm price without evaluating you first.
As you consider the cost of the dental implant, there are a few things you should keep in mind:
- Dental implants typically last longer than other tooth replacement options, so over time, the cost of replacing the missing tooth is less.
- These days, more and more dental insurance plans are beginning to provide benefits for this procedure. For those plans that do not include coverage for implants, they often cover diagnostic or extraction costs. If a plan does include dental implants as a covered benefit, it is still limited to the policy’s annual maximum.
- Most dentist offices offer payment plan options to help ensure you’re able to get the care you need. In our office, we work with Care Credit to provide interest-free financing options.
What’s the Difference Between Implants vs. Dentures?
Dental implants are a great alternative to dentures. Though we have been discussing implants to replace a single missing tooth, dentures are typically used to replace multiple missing teeth, and implants can do this too. Though dentures are, on the surface, a much simpler and less invasive method of dealing with missing teeth, dental implants provide a more natural look and feel.
Take a look at the chart below to compare the benefits of implants vs dentures. (And just so you know, it’s not an either-or choice - dental implants can even provide support and stability to dentures. Like we said, implants are versatile!)
|Overall Health||Provides natural chewing capabilities and a full diet.||May limit foods that can be enjoyed.|
|Bone & Tooth Preservation||Preserves bone and encourages tissue growth.||Does not benefit bones or teeth.|
|Stability||Stable and function just like real teeth.||Can slip around in your mouth, making chewing difficult.|
|Sustainability||With proper care, can last a lifetime.||May benefit from replacement every 5-7 years.|
|Materials||Made with titanium, a material compatible with the body.||Made of acrylic that can irritate the gums.|
|Appearance||Looks like natural teeth and prevents bone loss.||Can look somewhat natural but lead to bone loss, which affects the look of the face.|
Are You a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
Losing your teeth to injury or disease happens, and there’s no reason to be ashamed. However, you do not have to live with missing teeth, and we encourage you to seek our help to achieve your most beautiful, functional smile.
Here at Batchelor Dentistry, we’ve been expertly providing our patients with dental implants for years and always use premium implants designed to last for years. Our team is dedicated to providing you with a positive, comfortable dental implant procedure. We’re here to listen to your questions, provide answers, and help you achieve the healthy, beautiful smile you deserve.