When faced with the decision of whether or not to get dental implants, your mind is probably flooded with a million questions. Before we can begin answering some of those questions, let us first begin by understanding dental implants. The history of implants goes as far back as the Mayan culture in 600 AD. The implant entered modern dentistry in the 1950’s when an orthopedic surgeon discovered that bone will fuse with titanium, thereby allowing titanium posts to be used to support individual artificial teeth or dental appliances such as bridges or dentures. Here are some of the most common questions asked about dental implants:

Question; What are dental implants?

Answer: They are small cylindrical, titanium rods that are inserted into the gum at the site of missing teeth and into the jawbone where they attach themselves naturally and grow securely into the bone. This is the solid support of the new tooth. Then, another piece is slipped over the rod that will support the crown. This is called an abutment. The crown is placed over the supporting abutment and you now have a permanent tooth once again.

Question: Am I a good candidate for dental implants?

Answer: If you are at 18 years old and having missing teeth, require a new or repaired bridge, having bite or jaw problems because of missing teeth or you would prefer a long-term solution rather than a short-term one, then the answer is yes. Do your research and find the right doctor for you that will provide the dental services to suit your individual needs.

Question: Why should I get an implant instead of a bridge or dentures?

Answer: First, implants will prevent bone deterioration. Bridges, even permanent bridges, are not connected to the bone, neither are dentures. The constant grinding down onto the bridge or denture over time will take its toll on the appliance, your gums, and the adjacent teeth. Also, an implant will feel, function and look like a natural tooth. It will fill the same space at the missing tooth or teeth, preventing the others from moving or upper teeth from dropping down which can happen with partials or dentures on the lower jaw.

Question: Are there alternatives to implants? 

Answer: Yes. The most common alternatives are a fixed bridge where adjacent teeth are used to support a bridge. This requires damaging surrounding teeth to make the bridge fixed in place. Another is a removable bridge where the replacement teeth are bonded to a resin appliance that can be put in and taken out. The third alternative is complete dentures, which also are removable. The only real advantage to any of these alternatives is cost. The disadvantages are covered in the previous answer.

Question: Is the procedure painful?

Answer: Dental implant surgery is no more painful than any other comparable dental procedure. There should be no more discomfort than having a root canal procedure or a simple extraction. The doctor will make certain you will be as pain-free as possible during and after the procedure.

Question: What is the recovery time?

Answer: The initial recovery time after imstalling the implant is approximately 10 days for complete healing. The doctor will wait 3 to 4 months for the implant to attach itself to the bone before installing the permanent crown to the implant. That procedure has no real recovery time.

Question: Are implants expensive?

Answer: The cost of implants vary depending on the procedure itself because every patient is different, and every case is a little different. However, as a ballpark answer, they usually cost between $3000-$4000 per tooth for the entire procedure. Keep in mind, this is a lifetime investment whereas dentures and partials wear out over time and have to be repaired and replaced.

Question: Does insurance cover implants?

Answer: The only way to know for sure is to call your dental insurance company. More dental insurers are paying some amount toward implants.