According to WebMD, millions of individuals in the U.S. suffer tooth loss. The primary reasons are because of periodontal disease, tooth decay and injury. These statistics are despite significant advances in dental care over the past few decades. Historically, choices to replace teeth have been limited to dentures and bridges. Today, however, you also have the option of dental implants. Dental implant treatments provide a very welcome alternative to bridgework or dentures. New data reports that at least three million individuals in the U.S. have dental implants as of January 2020. This number is growing by 500,000 every year. If you are considering dental implants, you probably have some questions. To answer these questions, we’ve put together the following list of commonly asked questions about dental implants:
1. What Are Dental Implants?
This is one of the most common and obvious questions to ask about dental implants.
A dental implant isn’t a tooth, but it does act like a tooth root. It is used for replacing missing teeth. It is a small titanium post that the dentist inserts into your jawbone. In order to hold onto the bone, the post has threads on it like a screw. The dentist can then attach one of the following:
- Fixed bridge
- Single crown (cap)
- Full denture
- Partial denture
After the bone grows around the implant, the dentist screws a small connector into the implant, called an abutment. The abutment helps to form the gums and attaches your artificial tooth or teeth. The complete dental implant restoration includes 3 parts — the implant, the abutment and the artificial tooth.
Your jawbone fuses with the titanium dental implant. Because of the stable, solid connection, the dental implants won’t make noise, slip or cause bone and tooth damage like dentures and bridges. Plus, the materials don’t decay like your natural teeth.
2. Are Dental Implants Common?
Dental implants are becoming more and more common. Because tooth loss is a prevalent issue, dental implants are a common practice. They are increasingly becoming the treatment of choice to replace missing teeth. People are turning to implants for reasons including:
- To replace individual teeth: With a broken or decayed tooth that cannot be saved, people want a permanent, fixed solution to replace what was lost. Dental implants avoid damage to the neighboring teeth and help prevent bone loss.
- To replace multiple teeth: Since dental implants are sturdy and become part of the jawbone complex, they’re successfully used for stabilizing dental bridges.
- For their reliability: A dental implant can last the patient’s lifetime. Dental implants have a higher success rate than other dental restorations. If taken care of properly, dental implants can last longer than other alternatives.
- For their appearance and chewing: Implants are made to look and work like natural teeth, making them more cosmetic and functional than other options.
3. Are Dental Implants Safe?
While dental implants have been used for over half a century, recent technologies and techniques have become available to increase the success and safety of dental implant therapy. Incredible advances provide better imaging and planning and more accurate surgeries. Implant treatment is a safe and effective way to replace missing teeth. As with any medical procedure, there can be complications. Choosing a knowledgeable, well-trained implant dentist will minimize complications and ensure that problems will be handled skillfully, should they arise. Dental implants are one of the most reliable ways to replace missing teeth.
4. How Painful Is Getting a Dental Implant?
Most people report that getting dental implants was much less painful than they anticipated. Commonly reported is moderate to minimal discomfort or achiness. During the implant surgery, you have the option of IV sedation or oral sedation. On top of sedation, a local anesthetic is still used to assure a pain free experience.
Gentle surgical techniques improve the surgical experience and post-operative healing. If you follow the dentist’s instructions after the treatment and take the prescribed antibiotics, you should experience minimal discomfort. Your dentist may prescribe you pain medication as well, but many individuals don’t use them.
5. How Long Does a Dental Implant Procedure Take?
A few factors determine the procedure time. They are:
- Your dental health
- Which teeth are replaced
- The number of teeth involved
- If bone grafting is required
- If you’ll require a tooth extraction before the implant placement
The implant procedure is completed in two phases. The entire process can take three to nine months. If infections are present, it may take longer. Sometimes bone grafts are placed before the implant surgery and have to heal before the dentist places the posts into the jawbone. Temporary teeth can be placed on the implants while they are healing in the bone.
6. Can Any Dentist Place And Restore Dental Implants?
The short answer is yes. Any dentist can place and restore dental implants. There is no nationally recognized specialty in implant dentistry. Implant dentistry is a combination of multiple specialties. The only organization that can claim specialty status in implant dentistry is the American Board of Oral Implantology but that status is limited to only a few states in the U.S. Dental implants are specialized dental devices that must be placed with knowledge and expertise to minimize complications or implant failure. It is important that you choose a dental implant expert who has the proper education, training and competence in all aspects of implant dentistry. The American Academy of Implant Dentistry maintains a free directory of AAID-credentialed dental implant experts who have met key education, training, and experience benchmarks.
7. What Is the Downside of Dental Implants?
There are risks with any surgical procedure. The most common risks to implant dentistry are infection, pain and inflammation. Though they may occur, negative effects are rare and usually minor if they do arise. Most risks are mitigated by following instructions and with proper care. They can be managed for your specific situation.
If the dentist can’t place the implant because there’s no available bone, then you may require a bone and gum grafting procedure, which could increase your treatment cost.
8. What Is the Upside of Dental Implants?
Fortunately, you have the opportunity to replace missing teeth with more advantages than ever before. When you lose a single tooth or multiple teeth because of gum disease or dental decay, implants can now replace them and serve as your second set of adult teeth. Implants have many upsides, including:
- They improve your appearance
- They improve your confidence
- They can last a lifetime
- They allow you to have an active lifestyle
- They improve your ability to eat the foods you like
- You no longer have to worry about your teeth
- They never decay because they’re made of titanium
Dental implants have up to a 98 percent success rate.
9. What Can I Eat After Dental Implant Surgery?
For two days following your surgery, drink liquids and consume soft foods only like:
- Cooked cereals
- Smooth soup or puree
- Cottage cheese
- Ice cream
- Mashed potatoes
- Protein shakes
- Fruit smoothies
On day three following your surgery, eat soft foods that don’t require much chewing like:
- Cooked noodles
- Macaroni and cheese
- Soft sandwiches
- Refried Beans
- Scrambled eggs
Avoid crunchy or tough foods like chips, pizza, hamburgers and popcorn. Avoid acidic and spicy foods. Most individuals resume their regular diet seven days after their surgery. If temporary teeth are placed, a soft food diet may need to be maintained for 6 weeks.
10. Can You Have an Implant When Your Tooth Is Extracted?
Special drills are used to place dental implant into the jawbone. A snug fit is needed so that the implants do not move. In some cases, it is possible to place dental implants on the same day that your tooth is removed. A bone graft is usually still needed to fill in space around the implant. However, if a tooth is taken out and the remaining bone is not sufficient to hold an implant, a bone graft is used to help grow bone in the tooth socket. Typically, it takes three to six months of healing after the tooth is removed to place an implant in a grafted socket.
11. Can Your Mouth Reject an Implant?
On very, very rare occasions, the body may reject the implant post. The rejections are due to rare allergies to the titanium alloy that make up the implant. The most important thing that you can do to prevent the loss of an implant is to follow your dentist’s instructions and practice excellent oral hygiene. Without great oral hygiene, even natural teeth fail and fall out. Dental implants are no different. When you take care of your teeth and your implants, it will help prevent failure later on.
12. How Long Does It Take for Dental Implants to Heal?
There is a varied healing period. Here are some factors that determine healing time:
- Overall Health
- Oral Hygiene
- Active infection
- Number of teeth replaced
- Location of teeth replaced
- The need for a bone graft
- The need for a sinus graft
Without a separate bone graft, the healing process generally takes anywhere from six to 12 weeks.
13. What Can’t You Do After Dental Implant Surgery?
No smoking. Smoking causes gum disease and recession, which makes the dental implant structure weak over time. Smoking also impairs healing and prevents the gums and bone from properly connecting to the implant. Therefore, you should not smoke or chew tobacco.
Also, don’t apply any heat to your face unless you’re instructed to by your dentist. Heat could increase swelling and thus, discomfort.
Don’t use straws. Doing so places negative pressure in your mouth that could dislodge a blood clot that’s keeping the wound closed. This will result in more bleeding and delayed healing.
14. Can You Remove Dental Implants?
Because the bone grows right onto the implant post, you cannot remove dental implants. If a dental implant is infected or failing, a surgical procedure can be performed to separate the bone from the implant. For this reason, implants replace your teeth in a way that’s closest to your natural teeth.
15. Who is a Good Candidate for Dental Implants?
A good candidate for implants needs to have good health and must be committed to the habits that are required to keep the implants clean and healthy. Also, healthy gum tissues free of disease and inflammation are needed for successful outcomes..
In general, you may be a good candidate for dental implants if you:
- Are missing one or more teeth
- Have enough bone for securing the dental implant or can have a bone graft
- Have a fully grown jawbone
- Have healthy oral tissues
- Are unwilling or unable to wear dentures
- Don’t have a medical condition that would affect bone healing
- Would like to improve your chewing
- Can commit to the process
- Don’t smoke or are willing to quit
16. Can You Turn Dentures Into Implants?
Dentures cannot be “made into implants.” Dental implants are metal screws the dentist places into your jawbone to help support and anchor your artificial teeth (dentures). Dental implants may be able to be placed under an existing denture to help stabilize and support them. This can only be done if your existing dentures are in excellent condition.
17. How Do Implants Help With a Partial or Full Dentures?
Dental implants can help provide support and retention for a removable implant overdenture that the dentist snaps on your implants. Implants help ensure that the full or partial denture doesn’t move. Implants also decrease the need for denture glue and adhesives. Individuals who wear partials or full dentures are the most frequent users of dental implants.
18. How Long Do Implants Last?
With regularly brushing, flossing, and following your dentist’s recommendations, dental implants can last a lifetime. Your dentist can provide you with suggestions and guidelines on how to take good care of your teeth. Following the guidelines your dentist gives you will help ensure your implant has the best chance of lasting a lifetime.
19. Do Dental Implants Hurt?
Most implant procedures are easier and hurt less than a tooth extraction. Most dental offices provide conventional anesthesia, oral sedation, and IV sedation. When you choose effective sedation and local anesthesia, your procedure will seem both brief and pleasant.
20. Will Insurance Cover Dental Implants?
Some dental insurance companies do cover implants. But the coverage may not amount to a significant savings. In many cases, your insurance may help pay for the teeth the dentist places on your implants. You may want to call your insurance provider to confirm dental implant coverage.
21. How Much Do Dental Implants Cost?
The cost cannot be determined with this format because everybody has a unique situation. To get a definitive answer, your specific needs have to be known. Your dentist can give you a more accurate assessment of the costs of your procedure.
The cost of dental implant treatment will vary depending on individual factors, including:
- Are the amount, quality and location of your bone sufficient?
- What is number of dental implants you’ll need to support the teeth?
- Are you using an additional temporary while the implant heals?
- Does your abutment connector need to be customized?
- How many teeth are you replacing?
- What types of replacement teeth are being used?
- What type of dental implant is needed?
This is something you can discuss with your dentist during an initial consultation.