Made of durable titanium, a biocompatible material also used in orthopedic implants, dental implants are substitute tooth roots that serve in place of natural tooth roots. Dental implants preserve your jawbone and provide a solid foundation for natural feeling and functioning replacement teeth.
How do dental implants compare to bridges and dentures?
Unlike bridges, partials, and dentures, which may require replacement several times throughout your life, dental implants are designed as a long-term solution to tooth replacement. Because dental implants sit inside your jawbone instead of merely resting on top of it, they prevent the resorption (deterioration) of bone normally associated with tooth loss or removal and preserve your natural smile. Another benefit of dental implants over other methods is that they are not reliant on healthy neighboring teeth for support. Where bridges and partials require the filing and placement of hooks on remaining teeth, dental implants exist as individual entities in your mouth – each one with a strong foundation in your jaw – providing superior chewing power and aesthetic appearance without compromising the long-term health of adjacent teeth.
Because dental implants are the only treatment option for tooth replacement that prevents bone resorption, which can actually alter the structure of your jaw and cause your smile to look unnatural, they provide superior long-term esthetics and allow for strong, natural looking, feeling, and functioning replacement teeth.
Generally speaking, just about everyone who has lost one or more teeth is an excellent candidate for dental implants. There are a few medical conditions, such as uncontrolled diabetes, that can complicate our ability to successfully execute dental implant treatment, but the main factor in eligibility is whether you have a sufficient quantity of healthy bone available in which to place the implants. Significant bone loss can create difficulty and even preclude a patient from dental implant eligibility, however, additional procedures that can add or create new bone can provide a foundation for success even in these cases. If you’re interested in dental implants, don’t count yourself out – talk to your oral surgeon to see what can be done.
Dental implants are designed with permanence in mind. Documented clinical studies show that the long-term success rate of dental implants is over 95%. By contrast, the same studies have shown the alternative treatments of tooth-supported bridges and dentures/partials to last only 7-10 years and 5 years, respectively. That said, you can do a number of things to help increase the longevity of your dental implants, such as regular home care and maintenance visits to your dentist or dental specialist.
With a documented success rate exceeding 95%, dental implant treatment is one of the most successful procedures in the medical-dental field. In very rare instances, existing bone may not fully bond to the implants, however, in cases where this has occurred and new implants have been subsequently placed, the success rate is even higher.
In some cases, patients can qualify for Immediate Function procedures. In these instances, replacement teeth can be received on the very same day as the dental implants are placed, though a significant amount of treatment planning occurs prior to then. In most patients, treatment times typically range from several weeks to several months. The length of time all depends on the quality of bone the patient possesses, into which the implants will be placed. If bone loss has occurred, necessitating bone augmentation procedures, six to nine months are generally required for total treatment time.
While the perception of pain is very subjective based on the individual, most patients say that the discomfort experienced is much less than expected and is similar to that of having a tooth extraction. Many patients have even indicated that Tylenol and Ibuprofen are sufficient for management of pain after the procedure.
What Is Involved with Taking Care of Dental Implants?
What is necessary for successful home care of dental implants varies based on the type of replacement teeth in use:
Single implant supported crowns are cleaned like natural teeth via regular brushing and flossing.
Implant supported bridges replacing several teeth are cleaned just like tooth supported bridges by brushing normally and flossing with a floss-threader.
For individuals who have had all of their teeth replaced, care can be somewhat more complicated, often requiring special brushes and floss.
Over-dentures require the cleaning of the implant attachments as well as the over-dentures themselves.
Permanently fixed implant supported replacement teeth can be cleaned the same as all other bridges.
No matter your case, you should see your dentist and hygienist at least twice yearly. It’s also recommended that you see your surgical specialist at least once each year. Combined with proper home care, these visits are essential to ensuring long-term success for your dental implants.
When considering dental implant treatment, it’s important for patients to acknowledge that, while the initial cost of dental implants may be more expensive than other methods in some cases, because of the longevity of dental implants, the cost of treatment over a lifetime is often less than that of bridges and dentures, which require replacement every 5-10 years. You should also know that, because dental implants serve to protect against bone loss and preserve the integrity of facial structures, an investment in dental implants is not just a solution to missing teeth – it’s an investment in your long-term health. A common misconception among patients is that implants carry a set cost per tooth being replaced. In actuality, dental implant fees are calculated based on many factors including:
The number of teeth being replaced
The type of implants being used
The amount of time anticipated to complete treatment
The cost of the implants themselves and other required materials
Is Dental Implant Treatment Covered by Dental Insurance?
Whether your dental implants will be covered by dental insurance is dependent on the type of plan you have. Most dental plans are only designed to cover routine maintenance, emergencies, and basic care, thus dental implants are often excluded. They often will cover an amount equal to the lowest cost alternative treatment (dentures/partials), though, so it’s worth looking into. If your plan does include coverage for dental implants, it’s important to be aware of your maximum annual benefit (ranging from $1 – 1.5K on most plans), as your insurance will never cover more than this amount for any procedure.
In specific cases where patients are missing all of their teeth and are experiencing medical complications as a result, medical insurance may cover dental implants. There are also cases where, due to work related injuries or other accidents, you may have coverage. Coverage in these cases is dependent solely on the stipulations of your individual health insurance policy, and coverage for situations outside these is very rare. Medicare does not offer coverage for dental implant treatment. Be sure to consult with your insurance agent before assuming any coverage for your procedure.
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