Despite advances in oral care in the United States, about 26% of adults have untreated tooth decay. When that is left untreated long enough, it ends with a tooth extraction. Instead of getting a dental bridge or dentures, you’ve got the option of dental implants.
What Are Dental Implants?
A dental implant is basically a full-on replacement for your teeth. Instead of just being like a cap or a denture, the implant is actually attached to the jawbone to make it a more permanent solution. Dental implants function exactly like normal teeth, and they’re made up of three main components.
The implant is the first of those components. This is the part that is inserted into your jaw. It’s basically a screw that goes into the jaw and functions like the root of the tooth.
Next, you have the abutment. It’s a connector that attaches to the implant and will hold the third and final component of the dental implants.
That third part is the crown, which is a prosthetic tooth. It’s often made of porcelain or zirconium, which makes it look good and makes it very durable.
How Dental Implant Surgery Works
Dental implant surgery is usually an outpatient surgery that is done in several stages. Going through the entire process often takes several months.
The steps for receiving a dental implant are:
- Removing the damaged tooth
- Preparing the jawbone, sometimes grafting if necessary
- Placing the implant
- Allowing for bone growth and healing
- Placing the abutment
- Placing the artificial tooth
When the surgeon places the implant, he or she will cut the gum to expose the bone. Then a hole is drilled into the bone for the metal post to be placed. It has to be placed deep into the bone because it’s meant to serve as the tooth’s root.
After the post is in place, you’ll wait for the area to heal before moving onto the next step. At this point, you will have a gap where the artificial tooth will go, but you can get a partial denture to use temporarily. You’re waiting period is to allow the jawbone time to grow into the surface of the dental implant so it fuses together. The process is called osseointegration.
Once that process is complete, you’ll go back to the surgeon to have the abutment placed. That’s the piece the crown will attach to. Sometimes you’ll need another minor surgery to make this happen. The surgeon will have to reopen the gum to get access to the implant and put the abutment in place. Once the abutment is where it needs to be, you’ll have another couple of weeks for your gums to heal before the crown can be put on top.
The Benefits of Dental Implants
There are several advantages dental implants have over other methods of tooth replacement. They’re arguably the best looking solution available, which will make you feel better about your smile. If you’re not worrying about people noticing a difference between your real teeth and the replacement, this is the way to go.
Looks aside, dental implants have many practical advantages, too. As far as comfort goes, you won’t get anything better. With the implants looking and functioning just like your real teeth, you won’t really notice any difference in how they feel. There’s also no risk of poor fitment like you can get with dentures. That eliminates any speech problems or issues you may have while eating.
In addition, you’ll see lasting oral health benefits when you go with dental implants. You brush and floss like you would with your original teeth. All of the oral hygiene you’ve learned still applies, and there’s no new trick you have to learn.
You also don’t have to worry about having your other teeth reduced as you do with dental bridges. That means there is more longevity with a dental implant and less of a likelihood you’ll experience complications.
The Cost of Dental Implants
As with most health-related issues, costs for procedures such as this one can vary wildly depending on your specific condition, which surgeon you go to, and what your insurance will cover. Some plans include dental implant coverage while others don’t. You’ll need to have that conversation before you go in to have the surgery so you don’t end up with an unexpected bill.
In general, this procedure can cost anywhere from about $3,000 – $6,000 without insurance coverage. That’s for the entire procedure, from the damaged tooth removal all the way through placing the artificial tooth. Be sure to discuss the financial aspects and your insurance coverage thoroughly before undergoing this procedure. It may not be feasible for you if the price is too high, in which case you’ll need to look at dentures or a dental bridge to fix the problem.